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Subject: Re: Cultural controversy swirls around Seattle Opera'sMadame_Butterfly
From: Jason Victor Serinus <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Jason Victor Serinus <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Thu, 3 Aug 2017 11:43:59 -0700
Content-Type:text/plain
Parts/Attachments:
Parts/Attachments

text/plain (368 lines)


Oh my. Cio-Cio San is a "young woman who, though the cards of=20
life are stacked against her from the beginning, refuses to play the vict=
im." ??? In point of fact, she is the ultimate victim. She is a trapped
Butterfly with nowhere to go. Rather than defying Pinkerton, she surrenders
her child and kills herself.

My personal feelings about the opera aside - I love the music, and can't
wait to see the opening night performance - my job in writing this story is
as a journalist reporting another viewpoint on what Seattle Opera calls
"Madame Butterfly." That viewpoint is from Asian-Americans and Pacific
Islanders, not Asians. There is a major distinction here, and one that I
have done my best to honor in limited space. In fact, writing this story
has led me to understand how much my reaction to this opera, and the way
I've made peace with various elements of the story that I find disturbing,
is as a white man who can afford a perspective that many Asian-Americans
cannot.

Omitted from the story by necessity were multiple personal accounts from
Asian-Americans of the racism they have experienced, not the least of which
is that oft-heard exclamation, "Oh, but your English is so good." That to a
person who was born in the United States! Also omitted is detailed
discussion of Japanese internment in prison camps in the U.S. during WWII,
which will feature into the pre-performance lobby exhibit at Seattle Opera.
Many of the people on the panel are descendants of people who were unjustly
imprisoned by the U.S. government because of their racial origins.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, of course. Nonetheless, it would
behoove people who are open to considering multiple viewpoints, and are
willing to let go of preconceptions, to read the entire transcript of the
panel discussion, via the link supplied in the story. I would also urge us
not to indulge in passionate proclamations of alternate facts.

jason victor serinus

Date:    Thu, 3 Aug 2017 11:08:40 -0400
From:    "G. Paul Padillo" <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: Cultural controversy swirls around Seattle
Opera=?WINDOWS-1252?Q?=E2=80=99s_=E2=80=98Madame_Butterfly=E2=80=99?=

Fascinating article, Jason.  At the risk of sounding insensitive, I truly=
=20
believe too many people, regardless of heritage or culture, can be a bit=20=

over sensitive and reactionary when their culture is portrayed in a light=
that=20
they don=92t appreciate.=20=20

I was particularly flummoxed by Ms. Gainor=92s final quote:

=93. . . Cio-Cio San is a sex-trafficked 15-year old Japanese teenager.  =
Why=20
are we so comfortable with that, to the point of romanticizing it and tel=
ling=20
the story over and over?=94

The answer is, I believe, less complex than some might want to believe:  =
Cio
Cio-Cio San's story is, despite its =93Oriental trappings,=94 universal a=
nd,=20
regardless of one's own culture, we develop an automatic and great,=20
sympathy (even empathy) for this young woman who, though the cards of=20
life are stacked against her from the beginning, refuses to play the vict=
im.=20=20

While some would vilify Puccini we must remember he didn=92t write Butter=
fly=20
to poke fun at a culture he knew little about, but rather because Cio-Cio=
=20
San stole, then broke his heart.  She does for many of us.

While in London supervising the English premiere of =93Tosca=94, Puccini=20=

attended Belasco=92s play during its premiere run at the Duke of York=20
Theatre.  According to Belasco, Puccini rushed backstage, threw his arms=20=

around the playwright and, still weeping from the performance, begged=20
Belasco to allow him to set it to music.  Belasco offered Puccini the rig=
hts=20
immediately because, =93it was impossible to discuss arrangements with an=
=20
impulsive Italian who has tears in his eyes and both of his arms around=20=

your neck.=94  (More stereotypes!)=20=20

Regardless of his ignorance of genuine Japanese culture, Puccini gives th=
is=20
seemingly na=EFve, fragile, and enormous strength and nobility.  While ma=
ny=20
Asians may not appreciate what he created, others have (and do) with=20
productions designed and starring Asian artists, some of them playing in=20=

Seoul, (where during a recent run, the title role was split between two=20=

sopranos =96 an Armenian and an Italian), Tokyo, Beijing, Hong Kong, Saga=
=20
(Japan), Singapore (this season they also staged Turandot) . . . and othe=
r=20
Asian cities.=20=20

A number of Asian artists have actually been influenced and inspired by=20=

Puccini=92s opera, including composer Shigeaki Saegusa who, with a libret=
to=20
by one of Japan=92s most respected writers, Masahiko Shimada,=20
created =93Butterfly, Jr.=94=20

Renowned director Kuriyama Tamiya, whose credits include Broadway and=20
London=92s West End, recently directed an enormously successful productio=
n=20
of Butterfly for the New National Theatre in (wait for it) . . . Tokyo.=20=
=20

While I would never minimize either the offense or contempt felt by many=20=

for Puccini=92s opera, I do feel it does not paint a complete picture, an=
d=20
Asians who are touched and inspired by it, also should not be ignored or =
minimized.
minimized.=20=20

Thanks again for sharing your article with us.

p.

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------------------------------

Date:    Thu, 3 Aug 2017 11:14:08 -0400
From:    robert bragdon <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: Cultural controversy swirls around Seattle
Opera=?UTF-8?Q?=C3=A2=E2=82=AC=E2=84=A2s_=C3=A2=E2=82=AC=CB=9CMadame_Butter?=
=?UTF-8?Q?fly=C3=A2=E2=82=AC=E2=84=A2?=

Well said Paul....

On Aug 3, 2017 11:08 AM, "G. Paul Padillo" <[log in to unmask]> wrote=
:

> Fascinating article, Jason.  At the risk of sounding insensitive, I truly
> believe too many people, regardless of heritage or culture, can be a bit
> over sensitive and reactionary when their culture is portrayed in a light
> that
> they don=E2=80=99t appreciate.
>
> I was particularly flummoxed by Ms. Gainor=E2=80=99s final quote:
>
> =E2=80=9C. . . Cio-Cio San is a sex-trafficked 15-year old Japanese teena=
ger.  Why
> are we so comfortable with that, to the point of romanticizing it and
> telling
> the story over and over?=E2=80=9D
>
> The answer is, I believe, less complex than some might want to believe:
> Cio
> Cio-Cio San's story is, despite its =E2=80=9COriental trappings,=E2=80=9D=
universal and,
> regardless of one's own culture, we develop an automatic and great,
> sympathy (even empathy) for this young woman who, though the cards of
> life are stacked against her from the beginning, refuses to play the
> victim.
>
> While some would vilify Puccini we must remember he didn=E2=80=99t write =
Butterfly
> to poke fun at a culture he knew little about, but rather because Cio-Cio
> San stole, then broke his heart.  She does for many of us.
>
> While in London supervising the English premiere of =E2=80=9CTosca=E2=80=
=9D, Puccini
> attended Belasco=E2=80=99s play during its premiere run at the Duke of Yo=
rk
> Theatre.  According to Belasco, Puccini rushed backstage, threw his arms
> around the playwright and, still weeping from the performance, begged
> Belasco to allow him to set it to music.  Belasco offered Puccini the
> rights
> immediately because, =E2=80=9Cit was impossible to discuss arrangements w=
ith an
> impulsive Italian who has tears in his eyes and both of his arms around
> your neck.=E2=80=9D  (More stereotypes!)
>
> Regardless of his ignorance of genuine Japanese culture, Puccini gives th=
is
> seemingly na=C3=AFve, fragile, and enormous strength and nobility.  While=
many
> Asians may not appreciate what he created, others have (and do) with
> productions designed and starring Asian artists, some of them playing in
> Seoul, (where during a recent run, the title role was split between two
> sopranos =E2=80=93 an Armenian and an Italian), Tokyo, Beijing, Hong Kong=
, Saga
> (Japan), Singapore (this season they also staged Turandot) . . . and othe=
r
> Asian cities.
>
> A number of Asian artists have actually been influenced and inspired by
> Puccini=E2=80=99s opera, including composer Shigeaki Saegusa who, with a =
libretto
> by one of Japan=E2=80=99s most respected writers, Masahiko Shimada,
> created =E2=80=9CButterfly, Jr.=E2=80=9D
>
> Renowned director Kuriyama Tamiya, whose credits include Broadway and
> London=E2=80=99s West End, recently directed an enormously successful pro=
duction
> of Butterfly for the New National Theatre in (wait for it) . . . Tokyo.
>
> While I would never minimize either the offense or contempt felt by many
> for Puccini=E2=80=99s opera, I do feel it does not paint a complete pictu=
re, and
> Asians who are touched and inspired by it, also should not be ignored or
> minimized.
> minimized.
>
> Thanks again for sharing your article with us.
>
> p.
>
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------------------------------

Date:    Thu, 3 Aug 2017 11:21:07 -0400
From:    Idia Legray <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: Cultural controversy swirls around Seattle
Opera=?WINDOWS-1252?Q?=E2=80=99s_=E2=80=98Madame_Butterfly=E2=80=99?=

A very fine and educating piece.  Thanks Paul.

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------------------------------

Date:    Thu, 3 Aug 2017 10:05:54 -0700
From:    Donald Levine <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: Cultural controversy swirls around Seattle
Opera=?UTF-8?Q?=C3=A2=E2=82=AC=E2=84=A2s_=C3=A2=E2=82=AC=CB=9CMadame_Butter?=
=?UTF-8?Q?fly=C3=A2=E2=82=AC=E2=84=A2?=

It has become very convenient in our contemporary culture to look at the
product of an earlier time with jaundiced eyes.  We have also become ultra
sensitive in ways that for me are a bit  much.  Butterfly is a product of
its time.  It is an opera by an Italian based on an American play.  It is
also a magnificent creation musically and emotionally and that is how we
should look at it today, not seek to pull it apart and impart meanings that
never past through the minds of Puccini or Belasco.  When I see and hear
Butterfly, I do not think about cultural relativism, political correctness
or racial injustice.  I leave the theatre in tears.  I start bawling at the
moment that Cio-Cio-San and Suzuki spot the ship entering the harbor.  Il
cannone nel porto is my cue for the tears to flow.  I don't care if the
Butterfly is Japanese, Chinese, Mongolian or Chechan - or a fat little
Italian butterball (Scotto at the time of her Met debut).  I don't care if
she is made up to look Japanese or not, what I care about is that she can
sing the music and touch my heart.  Period.  I remember being with a friend
who was learning the role and coaching it with Teresa Stratas.  We had
lunch together - this was about twenty years ago.  I asked Stratas who was
the best Butterfly she ever heard and without looking a beat she said
Antonietta Stella at the Met in 1958.  She said at the end of the day, it
was an Italian opera that required a big, colorful, powerful spinto voice.
End of conversation.  She also admitted that she did not fit the bill.  My
friend also coached with Kiharu Nakamura, an elegant, cultured Japanese
lady living in Jackson Heights, NY who was a geisha during the thirties and
was known for educating prospective Butterfly's on the proper etiquette
and style of portraying a Japanese woman.  She herself was not offended by
Butterfly or its portrayal of Japanese society and having been born in 1914
and educated in pre war Japan, she was much closer to the era in which the
opera took place.

If you think Butterfly is bad - have you seen or heard Iris of Mascagni.
Talk about a romp in the underbelly of turn of the century Japan.  Its
similar to Butterfly in that it portrays some not so nice characters but is
basically more about a big Italian spinto singing glorious music and an
Italian tenor lover (in Iris' case, a real piece of shit).    That genre of
orientalism was very popular during fin de siecle Europe (end of the 19th
century).  There was Mme. Chrysanthome, Lakme, the Les Pecheurs des
Perles...and others.  We really have to accept them on their own terms and
not try to fast forward to our 21st century sensibilities.

I love Butterfly, I enjoy Turandot, Iris, and their ilk.  I don't think the
creators were trying to dis anyone.  If anything. its the Mericans who come
off at the shitheads in Butterfly.  Sharpless is the only one with some
decency and if you think Pinkerton is bad, you should get to know the
original 1904 Butterfly.  He was cleaned up and made a bit more sympathetic
in the final version we know today.

As far as I am concerned, this whole conversation is an exercise in mental
masturbation.

Donald =F0=9F=A4=94

---
Jason Victor Serinus http://www.jasonserinus.com     Whistler
Extraordinaire: **The Voice of Woodstock • The Pavarotti of Pucker**
Music and audiophile critic: Seattle Times, Port Townsend Leader,
Stereophile, Listen, San Francisco Classical Voice, Bay Area Reporter, Gay
City News, American Record Guide, Classical Voice North America, Stanford
Live, Opera Now, Copper, and more

"Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the
tormentor, never the tormented.” — Elie Wiesel

“This is a time to remember all of us who are LGBTQ. It’s a time to stand
out and be proud, to parade who we are, to celebrate and to let them know
we will not be silenced, we will not be stopped, we will not go back into
the closet. Together, we will love.” — JVS at our Orlando Massacre Support
Rally in Port Townsend, WA

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