Seattle Opera Confronts the Ugly Side of Madame Butterfly

Seattle Opera Panelists
“Asian Leaders Respond to Madame Butterfly”

I was excited to hear that Seattle Opera was performing Madame Butterfly because I love Puccini’s music and Butterfly is one of the most famous operas ever written. I didn’t know the opera was controversial for its racist depiction of the Japanese – especially its promulgation of the stereotype that Japanese women are suicidal, subservient sex puppets – until I heard about Seattle Opera’s free community panel discussion “Asian Arts Leaders Respond to Madame Butterfly,” moderated by Frank Abe, co-founder of Seattle’s Asian American Journalists Association. Continue reading

Butchart Gardens

 

I’ve visited gardens all over the world, but it took me nearly 20 years living in the Pacific Northwest to get around to visiting Butchart Gardens in Victoria, B.C. I finally made it up there a couple years ago, and felt pretty stupid for taking so long.

As the plural in the name implies, it’s not just one big garden, but a collection of themed gardens, and each is amazing. Their rose garden is much more impressive than the test gardens in Portland; their Japanese garden, while too lushly planted to be entirely traditional, is one of the finest I’ve seen in or out of Japan. The primary garden is the reclaimed pit of an old quarry. I spent most of a day there, and could have gone back the next day and spent just as much time again.

What I love best about the gardens, though, is that they rely almost entirely on the most prosaic plant palette. Perhaps the plant selection was fresh and exciting when Jennie Butchart laid out the designs, but almost everything you see is what I call “landlord plants,” those boring plants you can find at any hardware store that landlords use to fill the open spaces around their buildings.

Every single garden at Butchart is exquisite, and it’s entirely due to thoughtful design and impeccable maintenance – things that a home gardener can aspire to regardless of their budget.

 

Soft Sunset

I grew up on the desert, where urban pollution and barren earth combined to create some pretty epic sunsets. Colorful sunsets were among the very few things I missed about the Southwest when I moved to Seattle (Indian fry bread was another). Here, you could miss the sunset entirely behind the clouds.

But I’ve grown to love the gentle Northwest sunsets, all colorless light and shadow. This one was at Cama Beach.

I Capture Craigdarroch Castle

Yeah, okay, I just toured it. But damn. Wouldn’t it have been nice to be a coal baron in the 1890s?

Most modern homes on this scale disgust me, and know the money that built this one was just as corrupt. I would totally live in Craigdarroch Castle if I could, though. In fact, I have often thought that I would be a really good Lady of the manor.

The Most Beautiful Music – La Traviata at Seattle Opera

Seattle Opera 2017 La Traviata McCaw Hall

Corinne Winters (Violetta). Seattle Opera 2017 La Traviata Philip Newton photo c/o Seattle Opera

People are getting pretty worked up about the unusual production of La Traviata currently playing at Seattle Opera. But really, the production isn’t very important. What really matters about La Traviata is the music, that exquisite, heavenly music.  Continue reading