Madame Butterfly, Norwich

CAROLINE CULOT If you are going to take on the Northern Ballet Theatre (NBT) as its new artistic director as David Nixon has done, then you may as well start in style. Theatre Royal

CAROLINE CULOT

If you are going to take on the Northern Ballet Theatre (NBT) as its new artistic director as David Nixon has done, then you may as well start in style.

And if last night's performance of Madame Butterfly, marking Nixon's debut with the company, is any indication of what's in store, then I am sure NBT fans are not going to be disappointed.

In his adaptation of the opera version, Nixon attempts to evoke the ethereal, delicate nature of Butterfly – which indeed he does.


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The story tells of a beautiful geisha who falls in love with an American naval officer who spurns her with tragic consequences.

The Puccini score is as heart-tugging as ever, aided by additional Japanese music accompanying Kabuki theatre to emphasise Butterfly's culture and character.

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If anyone was born to dance Butterfly, it has to be principal Chiaki Nagao – not because she is Japanese-born but because she manages to convey all the fragility of the character and yet, in her final scene, encapsulates Butterfly's incredible strength. Iseen Chiaki dance Juliet in Romeo and Juliet and Estella in Great Expectations and she always excels and is always so graceful, helped by her tiny, doll-like frame.

Junior soloist Neil Westmoreland dances the naval officer Pinkerton and proves how the NBT welcomes giving its young blood a chance to shine. And shine he does, with his good looks and energy, aided by Jonathan Ollivier, as Pinkerton's friend, whom we last saw as Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire. Jeremy Kerridge, celebrating 21 years with the company, also adds his own individual style as only he can as marriage broker Goro.

Norfolk always welcomes the NBT, now a regular at the Theatre Royal, and Madame Butterfly is another triumph.

t Principal Charlotte Talbot (due to play Kate) was absent on Tuesday night due to a calf strain.

t Madame Butterfly continues nightly at the Theatre Royal until Saturday May 25 (7.30pm, £4.50-£24), with matinees on Thursday (2pm, £4.50-£19) and Saturday (2.30pm £4.50-£19) . Box office: 01603 630000.

Theatre Royal

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