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Subject: Re: Madama Butterfly
From: "David M. Wagner" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:David M. Wagner
Date:Fri, 16 Jun 2017 21:56:35 -0400
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I was wondering when someone was make this point.

A friend of mine - NYCO lyric tenor Nicholas di Virgilio (gosh, he ruled as the Boïto Faust!) - often sang Pinkerton at student performances, and he said the little kids totally declined to make the singer/character distinction. So at final curtain calls, he would get hissed!- and no, he hadn't sung badly: he was in his prime, and these kids were moralists, not voice critics. You betray the sweet girl, we don't like you!

Keep in mind this was long before surtitles. Maybe some of these productions were in English, but that still supposes a high attention level from the tykes. Most likely their teachers or parents had done a good job briefing them on the story, as Dad always did with me when I was seeing an opera new to me.

-David Wagner


Sent from my iPhone

> On Jun 16, 2017, at 6:42 PM, London Tier <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
> Wow. I’m sure her instructor for Music Hum must have been challenged by
> this response. It does seem to me that somebody didn’t do their work
> preparing this young viewer for the experience. Even assuming one's
> antennae are fully up looking to be offended by orientalism and
> “yellowface,” this opera, while providing those in spades (sic) is also
> more complex than that. In my experience, North American audiences
> completely miss the basic fact that this is already a very
> *anti-American*opera,
> in which Pinkerton is a Bad Person, and you are supposed to thrill to the
> suffering of the noble, if fallen woman at the hands of a callow youth.
> (cf. La traviata, etc.)
> 
> In a way, it is like _Ramona_, the old California “play of the Missions,”
> in which the Indians are noble, but innocent; the Latins (the Missionaries)
> are sympathetic, and the Yankees are crude, mercenary oppressors. The fact
> that the descendants of those same money-grubbing Yankees loved the book
> and made it the foundational text of their fantasies of an “old” California
> only points to how complex our identifications with art can be. I would
> wish that the student you quote had allowed herself as complex a field of
> intersection.
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> On Saturday, June 10, 2017, 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:
>> 
>> http://spc.columbiaspectator.com/opinion/2016/04/13/music-
>> humanities-disoriented
>> <https://emea01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fspc.
>> columbiaspectator.com%2Fopinion%2F2016%2F04%2F13%2Fmusic-humanities-
>> disoriented&data=01%7C01%7Cchristopher.wintle%40kcl.ac.uk%
>> 7Ca82bc9dbcbcb470f552308d4a67534c1%7C8370cf1416f34c16b83c72407165
>> 4356%7C0&sdata=2MXoBMlhDSYe18k3zihTDItNIP8PO1AiPvpVNd5oux8%3D&reserved=0>
>> 
>> 
>> ***************
>> 
>> 
>> 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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