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

You Never Know

 

{I actually took this picture while camping at Cama Beach several years ago, because I wasn’t carrying a camera on the day of this story.}

One of the reasons I insisted on buying a tiny house in the city instead of a big one in the ‘burbs is that I don’t want to spend my life in a car. I’d rather experience life up close, at a walking pace, and living in the city put’s most things within range of my own two feet – at least theoretically. Last winter an endless sinus infection paired with record-low temperatures led to some bad car-centric habits.

After months of driving my daughter to her school 1/4 mile from our house, I shook off my winter lethargy one sunny spring afternoon and walked to pick her up. A block from my house I saw two people standing on the corner, staring at the sky. A trio of eagles was circling over the neighborhood. One of the ladies standing on the corner commented how unusual it was that there were three of them, since they usually hang out in pairs. I believed her because was obviously a serious birder. She had binoculars – she said she never leaves the house without them because you never know what you’ll see.

I would not have seen the eagles that day if I drove. You never know what you’ll see, but you do have to be looking.

Choice Time at Pacific Northwest Ballet

In kindergarten, almost every kid has the same favorite subject in school – Choice Time. Choice time usually disappears in third grade, but when it does appear in later life, it’s usually still a favorite. For me, that means the annual Director’s Choice program at Pacific Northwest Ballet. Of course, it’s the director’s job to pick the programs, so in a sense every program is the director’s choice. But the idea behind Director’s Choice is that for this one program, the director picks ballets he likes best without consideration for budgets and ticket sales. I doubt that the director is ever free from those considerations, but it’s a nice idea and it is true that Director’s Choice includes more premieres and bolder works than other programs throughout the season. Which is why I always end up liking it best.

This year was even more special to me, because for once, I only brought my kids to the introduction of the blog post, but was free to attend and enjoy the actual ballet for myself, without consideration for what kind of value it may have for kids or how to help kids understand and enjoy it. Even better, my companion for the evening is a dancer herself, so I could share her insights that I would never get on my own. Continue reading

Solstice Giraffe

 

My neighborhood has hosted a summer solstice parade since 1989. Without really knowing anything about it, I attended the festival the first summer I lived in Seattle (1993) when it just seemed like any other summer festival and the Fremont neighborhood seemed very far away from my central area apartment. I still have the batik bedspread I bought that year. Now I live two blocks from the parade route and have a much more intimate understanding of the festival.

It’s not your regular summer festival. The parade rules:

  1. No printed words, signage or recognizable logos.
  2. No live animals (except guide animals).
  3. No motorized vehicles (except motorized wheelchairs)
  4. No functional weapons.

The festival is a completely nonmotorized, noncommercial celebration of sunshine, life, art and creativity. The better for basking in the sun, a festival of this sort involves a fair bit of nudity.  Most famously, naked cyclists. I used to love their creative body paint costumes, the double take when you tried to figure out which riders were clothed and which were not.

But the naked cyclists have proliferated in recent years, in my opinion to the detriment of the festival. Just as the belly dancers once did, the cyclists’ numbers threaten to overwhelm the parade. Many of the newcomers don’t bother with artistic paint designs. Worse, their fame has drawn hundreds of pervs from the suburbs who have no interest in the rest of the celebration and just want to take pictures of naked people.

But the rest of the festival is still there, and it is still filled with incredible creations. Like this 15-foot-tall puppet from 2014.

Artistic Growth at Seattle Opera

 

Seattle Opera 2017 Katya Kabanova Philip Newton photo

Seattle Opera 2017 Katya Kabanova Philip Newton photo c/o Seattle Opera

Interview any artist, whether it’s a rock star promoting a new album or a symphony director discussing his orchestra, and you will hear about “artistic growth.” But we don’t often talk about audiences’ artistic growth. Continue reading

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