How weird

Madam Butterfly will be re-examined through the lens of and slavery and colonialism, with ticketholders to a new production offered accompanying lectures on the opera’s “imperialist” themes.

Welsh National Opera (WNO) will run a series of lectures on Puccini’s 1904 work about an American naval officer marrying 15-year-old geisha Cio-Cio-San, saying the story raises issues of “imperialism and colonialism”.

Despite Puccini’s Japanese setting – and the opera being reimagined in a dystopian future by WNO – the company will host a talk on “the long arm of imperialism” discussing “how the UK is still shaped by its past”.

Japan being one of those few places which never was occupied by western imperialism. Or perhaps they’re going to talk about Japanese imperialism, of which there was quite a lot?

18 thoughts on “How weird”

  1. I remember visiting a museum in Kyoto where there was this painting describing the true story of how an american ship capsized off the Japanese coast in the late 19th century. Many of the crew managed to swim ashore and safe themselves. The Japanese then proceeded to round them up and kill them as foreign entry was absolutely verboten (they wanted to maintain their racial purity)

  2. I guess that now we’ve trained a bunch of graduates in grievance studies we need to create jobs for them.

  3. That keening song from the opera is a real mover, isn’t it? Wot opera is for.

    Woke Opera: Wokera? Who would buy a ticket?

  4. So….Italian composes opera about American sailor’s relationship with Japanese female…and this is being used to illustrate historic UK imperialism?

    Still, on the positive side, at least the Welsh National Opera isn’t funded by us taxpayers.


  5. ken & jgh: yep, clearly got my dates wrong! I think it still illustrates that Japan has hardly ever been open to being colonised

  6. They really hate their audience, don’t they? Or is it a clever way of precluding any criticism of the production?

  7. I was talking to a woman in the interval of Madama Butterfly at the ROH and she was moaning about how this nasty Yank was despoiling this innocent japanese girl.

    I pointed out to her that, according to the plot, it was the Japanese Emperor who had ordered her father to commit Seppuku then thrown the suddenly impoverished girl and her now destitute mother out on the streets where she had to make a living as a Geisha.

    Furthermore, it was a Japanese broker who had sold Cio Cio San to Pinkerton and the Yank was merely following the customs of the country.

    The woman quickly switched to moaning about all men.

  8. Bloke in North Korea (Germany province)

    It’s hard but not impossible to find Japanese singers to fill the role, as will be required under humourless po-faced postmodern staging rules about no cross-dressing/casting/blackface/gays playing straights etc. But as we will want to stamp out ageism in the entertainment industry, I do wonder how they will find a 15 year-old Japanese singer to fill the role.

  9. Bloke in North Dorset


    it’s cultural appropriation, so no amount of Japanese singers will make it right. Those Taffs need to go away and write their own stories and set them in a Welsh format, not opera.

  10. @BinD, does that mean loads of sheep-shagging men in coaldust blackface wearing dinner jackets and singing in choirs in a language that none of them speak?

  11. Bloke in North Dorset


    That’ll do, as long as they don’t play brass entrustments, they’re Yorkshire coal mine culture.

  12. @BinD isn’t that simply a scaled-up ritualised pubfight about what great-uncle jock said about our nan two generations and 100 years ago?

    It would at least get classed as “audience-participation”, so must be posh/experimental and worth a cultural grant or two…

  13. On Austrian telly last year I saw Asmik Grigorian sing it in Vienna. Cor !

    She’s Lithuanian/Armenian so has plenty to offer in the oppression stakes.

    Her Salome is brilliant too, but the Salzburg production that she was in was bloody terrible.

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