On stage at La Monnaie / De Munt theatre, Brussels, BE | 31.01 to 14.02.2017


Madama Butterfly

The story of Madama Butterfly is about the young Japanese geisha Cio-Cio-San, called Butterfly, who accepts a pro forma marriage with the American officer Pinkerton, in order to become his wife. By doing so she rejects her culture, her past, her ancestors. Pinkerton already has plans for his future to live together with an American woman, but he arranges a wedding celebration with Cio-Cio-San and spends a love night with her.

When he leaves, he promises to come back to Japan when the robin birds are nesting. Three years pass and Butterfly keeps waiting together with her child, born in the meantime, and their maid Suzuki. A lot of waiting, a lot of longing. For love? For freedom? For a new social status?

Pinkerton returns but he is now accompanied by his real American wife. When Butterfly realizes that she will never be his wife, she kills herself.

A ghost story

“The story is well known from opera, musical and film. In our staging, we give it a new perspective, the viewpoint of the ghosts;” director Kirsten Dehlholm said in an interview. “When Cio-Cio-San kills herself, she becomes a ghost who has to tell her story over and over again in order to get peace. The notion of ghosts has a huge impact in Asian culture, also today. The solo singer, positioned on the front stage, is the ghost, in her old age. She doesn’t play the character of the story, she is the storyteller. She is the voice who sings the story. Cio-Cio-San, the 15-years old girl, is played by a life-size puppet. With few and precise gestures and movements, it is able to express fundamental emotions, more pure and convincing than any live performer can do.”

The staging

“Our staging is based on a visual score, composed of total scenic images. A “moving chorus” of twelve dancers creates kinetic patterns and visual variations in a more static scenic landscape” Dehlholm said. “Our concept – articulated around a ghost for narrator and a puppet to play the young Cio-Cio-San -, requires a special team of puppets makers and manipulators. The Ulrike Quade Company has been involved from the very beginning to find the right expression for the puppets, especially made in Japan.”

In the vision of Hotel Pro Forma and its artistic director Kirsten Dehlholm, the spirit, the conscience of Butterfly stand by the audience in a full consciousness of the eternal cycle (die ewige Wiederkunft des Gleichen). Hotel Pro Forma creates a novel dramatic arc that engenders a new space of questioning for the 21st century audience and confers to this well-known work a powerful emotional quality while avoiding much too stifling sentimentality. This is not the only way of doing common to both spectacles. Faithful to their will to explore the limits between art and science, music and visual arts, theatre and installation, Kirsten Dehlholm and Hotel Pro Forma cast a universalistic and prejudice-free gaze on the topic and render it by a clever utilisation of space, images and sound. All that ends up to a sonorous and visual intriguing experience, not unlike the theatre of Bunraku, but also the art of taxidermy. [Source: La Monnaie, 2017]


Maja Ziska / Hotel Pro Forma – Madama Butterfly (G. Puccini) – 2017
StagingKirsten Dehlholm (Hotel Pro Forma)
Co-DirectorJon R. Skulberg
Collaboration stagingMarie Lambert
Set designMaja Ziska
Costume designHenrik Vibskov
Light designJesper Kongshaug
Collaboration ChoreographyKenzo Kusuda
Collaboration PuppetsUlrike Quade
Photo creditsBaus / La Monnaie