madame butterfly/SerenadE choreographed by Stanton Welch and George Balanchine, May 8-12, Tuesday-Saturday 7:30 pm, matinees Thursday and Saturday 2 pm. $26-$96. Presented by the National Ballet of Canada at the Hummingbird Centre, 1 Front East. 416-345-9595. Rating: NNNN
the national ballet's madameButterfly soars. Any skeptics who think the Puccini opera about a young geisha's tragic love for a U.S. officer should be sung and not danced need only see Australian choreographer Stanton Welch's two-act production. The richly melodic Puccini score has been adapted by John Lanchbery (and dramatically conducted by Ormsby Wilkins), the story's essence distilled and a psychological depth added that more than compensates for the lack of words.Welch's movement always expresses character or plot. Look, for example, as Pinkerton (Geon van der Wyst, clad throughout in a bod-revealing wife-beater) heartlessly twirls around at the start, tipping us off to his arrogance. Later, before his love duet with Cio-Cio-San (a lovely Chan Hon Goh), he snakily exudes sensuality as his bride prepares herself behind one of the production's evocative screens.
A flashback and a fantasy sequence both work efficiently, the latter providing an emotionally satisfying second-act pas de deux that almost matches one in the first.
Overall, a confident addition to the company's repertoire.
Also on the bill is George Balanchine's Serenade -- elegant, symmetrical, easy on the eyes, but as dull as a TV perfume ad.