Saturday, December 22, 2007

Madame Butterfly

Grandma taught me two things about Japan: its symbol is Sakura - the flower is small, petals fragile, but they gather together into one, just like the Japanese people united into one great nation; its color is red - that, she didn't explain, so I took it for granted that it is because of the color of the Japanese national flag. But what I didn't realize then is that red is love, passion, and death - Seppuku, the ritual suicide that has become the code of bushido and the discipline of the samurai, is a painful death seeking the redemption of the condemned.

Last night, I witnessed the red.

Puccini's Madame Butterfly rendered into ballet. Graceful steps took over the singing and the fragility in soprano's voice were replaced by the litheness of Keiko Amemori, one of the principle ballerinas of Northern Ballet Theatre. The evening was immersed in a deeply romantic and mournful sensation, and a splendor created by surreal lightings, exquisite costumes. The music is a surprise combination of Puccini's beautiful original added in recordings of Sokyoku. Despite a couple of odd sounds from the clarinets, the rendition is marvelous, impeccably beautiful. Considering the conductor, Nigel Gaynor, has only been rehearsing with Beijing Philharmonic Orchestra for three days, and much of the orchestra is made up of young musicians, it is a miracle how stunning the music turned out.

Another miracle is the coincidence of going to the ballet with my Australian professor whose wife is Japanese, and happened to meet the Australian conductor whose Italian wife is a close friend of his, and the friendship dates all the way back to their years in Cambridge. And thinking about having this ballet about American sailor and Japanese geisha composed by an Italian and performed by a British theatre for a Chinese audience makes one lose tough with time and space, which reminds me of Maestro Barenboim, when asked about western classical music being performed all over the world and how this relates to globalization, the maestro answered: "it is not an act of globalization but it is an act of cosmopolitan thinking".

The maestro is right.

I'll post an interview with Nigel Gaynor, Conductor of Northern Ballet Theatre, soon ;)

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