Review: Perpetuum Mobile and Madame Butterfly at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

What a privilege to see Puccini’s passionate tale of love, betrayal and the suicide as an alternative offering to the best-loved opera, presented by the award winning dance company, Northern Ballet at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre for just two performances.

Review: Perpetuum Mobile and Madame Butterfly at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

Northern Ballet dancers in Madame Butterfly. Pic: Emma Kauldhar

The company’s Sinfonia under the instruction of Nathan Fifield and with orchestrations by John Longstaff, produced the perfect version of the original music, with a few special touches to bring this beautiful score to life and for ease of choreography.

But Puccini is not the only delight on offer.  The evening opens with an exceptional performance of a 17 minute piece entitled Perpetuum Mobile, which as the title suggests, is a perfectly executed, continuous routine set to Bach’s lilting Violin Concerto in E Major, where Christopher Hampson’s expert choreography enables the dancers to build the performance layer by layer to stunning finale. 

Perpetuum Mobile Isabella Gasparini and Tobias Batley Pic: Brian Slater

The effective but unobtrusive costumes allow the dancers’ technique to shine and the empty stage became the perfect blank canvas on which to paint a picture through dance. No storyline is required here, as it is purely an extraordinary display of modern ballet at its finest.

Madame Butterfly followed; the tale of Pinkerton, an American naval officer bewitched by a Geisha whom he marries, only to abandon her and return home without a backward glance.  Eventually he returns to find Butterfly has borne him a son, while he himself has remarried, breaking her heart and forcing her to commit the ultimate sacrifice.

The company share the principal roles, but at this performance Butterfly was danced by the incredibly beautiful, not to mention extremely accomplished, Rachael Gillespie, whose perfect portrayal of the tragic heroine swayed from mischief and flirting, to adoration and love and finally to utter despair and misery, displaying complex acting skills and pure emotion.

Martha Leebolt as Butterfly. Pic: Emma Kauldhar

Pinkerton was danced by Cuban born Javier Torres, whose strength was the ideal contrast to the gentle, delicate performance given by his partner.  The duets between the lovers offered the audience stunning lifts as well as a mixture of traditional ballet steps and eastern influences in keeping with the piece.

There were exceptionally strong performances too from Sean Bates as Sharpless and Mlindi Kulashe as Bronze, as well as a very special performance from Ayami Miyata as Suzuki the maid, whose chemistry on stage with her mistress resulted in two talented ballerinas working perfectly together to produce a believable friendship simply through movement.

The choreography of Butterfly’s death scene, by David Nixon OBE and set to an incredible piece of original Japanese music, demanded pin-dropping silence as the ballet climaxes and again the principal ballerina rose to the challenge with jaw-dropping results.

Mlindi Kulashe and Sean Bates as the Sailors in Madame Butterfly. Pic: Emma Kauldhar

With outstanding lighting effects throughout both pieces, but in particular in Madame Butterfly and minimal scenery so as not to crowd the dancers, Northern Ballet certain delivers on every level.

This company must surely be a favourite for the Grand Theatre programme in the future.

Call 01902 429212 or visit for  tickets. 

Whilst your here, take a look at upcoming events at the Grand Theatre 

 By Alison Norton

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