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Subject: Re: Madama Butterfly
From: Kiwi <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Kiwi <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 11 Jun 2017 07:27:13 -0400

text/plain (92 lines)

Opera is art and as such requires a large dose of suspended animation.  As 
we settle into our seats, we also settle into a mind-set that (hopefully) 
allows us to eliminate the outside world and focus on the inner.  To the 
extent any single member of the audience cannot do that, to the extent her 
or she insist on seeing the performance through a non-deniable personal 
agenda set firm before the curtain rises, to the extent he or she cannot 
assess the performance as a shared yet stand-alone event in a darken 
theater, is more an indictment of that person than the culture that exists 
outside the theater.

Yes, opera can do better to reflect that reality but the fact that a white 
woman in the audience who dared 'cultural appropriation' to see an Italian 
opera set in Japan so offended this person that she went on a a public 
diatribe spoke more about her prejudices than about the situation.

Casting decisions are made based on available talent.  Otello has been 
played a handful of times by a dark-skinned tenor but the reality is that 
the talent pool available for the role will dictate that the character will 
be played with a lighter-skinned tenor made up with various shades of dark 
make-up.   Other operas have a host of characters from seemingly exotic 
locations around the world and yet we don't stop production because the cast 
lacks authenticity.

The fact that only by following Guilino's rather dictatorial demands 'we' 
could begin to heal allows her to posture that her preposterous proposition 
would set some undefined group of people free.  The fact that this 
individual feels affront that the majority of people in theater enjoyed the 
performance (by the way, what has she to say about the actual singing and 
acting, or was she so deep in her own gloom that she denied the performers 
her attention?)  doesn't give her the right to speak for 'us'.

I am usually on the side of the underdog but in her excesses Gulino 
undermined her basic thesis that opera needs to do better in employing 
minority singers.  Yes, they should.  But, no, they should not cast operas 
solely on skin tone or nationality over talent.

On Sat, Jun 10, 2017 at 11:11 PM, Genevieve Castle Room <
[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Malina Gulino wrote:
> >"The moment I spotted a white woman with chopsticks in her blonde hair
> climbing up the steps of the opera house last Wednesday, I should have
> turned around and gone home. Instead, I figured that, as offensive as
> Madama Butterfly is to me as a Japanese woman, the experience could be a
> valuable exercise in critiquing art I don’t like. There is also the not
> insignificant fact that, as part of the Music Humanities curriculum,
> watching this opera is a graduation requirement, theoretically speaking
> [....] In the only acceptable production of Madama Butterfly, Pinkerton
> would be a Japanese woman, and Butterfly would be a white American man. 
> And
> he wouldn’t be just any white American man: Butterfly would be the most
> pitiful, embarrassing caricature of a white American man possible,
> portrayed by a Japanese singer in whiteface. Dolore would be an actual
> human child. I want the white woman in the lobby with chopsticks in her
> hair to feel uncomfortable. I want the audience that applauded and cheered
> the Metropolitan Opera as it perpetuated disgusting, patronizing, racist
> ideas about my people to know how Madama Butterfly makes me feel. I want
> them to understand my pain. That, for me, would be a tolerable rendition 
> of
> Madama Butterfly. Then, I think, we could begin to heal. This season’s run
> of Madama Butterfly ended yesterday night.... DO NOT see the next one"
> RTWT here:

> ***************
> I don't think I've ever seen such an extreme reaction to Madama Butterfly.
> Is anyone here on the side of this obviously, and self-consciously,
> over-the-top commentator in thinking of Butterfly as a Western man?

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