Cultural Appropriation & Madame Butterfly
Most opera companies present the opera Madame Butterfly because of Puccini’s beautiful melodies. But not everyone can see themselves in this story. As a historically white and European art form, opera has a history of using cultural appropriation to tell stories, and placing more emphasis on the voice in casting. Since Seattle Opera's last Madame Butterfly in 2012, our community has raised a larger discussion about works in which the composer/librettist team is writing about a culture other than their own (Madame Butterfly and The Mikado are examples).We are seizing this opportunity to encourage discussion and deepen Seattle Opera's understanding about this important subject matter.
In addition to the community events listed below, the lobby areas of McCaw Hall will be used for a large-scale exhibit prior to each performance of Madame Butterfly. As Seattle Opera presents the heartbreakingly beautiful music and story of Madame Butterfly, we are also providing a perspective on Puccini’s masterpiece that we have not offered before. Seattle Opera is learning more about the impact of stories like Butterfly on Japanese Americans, and more broadly, Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent. Individuals from these communities have faced a history of racial discrimination, and, as marginalized people, they have not always had the same power to be heard as white or European storytellers. The lobby display will explore these topics in both opera and the broader entertainment landscape.
Seattle Opera has also published a series of blog interviews that open up dialogue and elevate Asian voices in our immediate Seattle community and in the wider artistic community. For further information about cultural appropriation in Madame Butterfly and opera, read our Spotlight Guide.