American Dream Inversion

Nina Yoshida Nelsen and Hae Ji Chang in the world premiere of An American Dream. © Philip Newton c/o Seattle Opera

Seattle Opera is one of Seattle’s biggest, most “establishment” arts organizations, but they are appropriately progressive to our left-coast city, relative to other major opera companies around the country. American Dream is the perfect example. I’m a little late in talking about American Dream, since I attended the very last performance. I think it’s still worth talking about it, even though the performances are over, because it completely inverts the typical opera experience. Continue reading

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Madama Butterfly at Seattle Opera

Sharpless (Weston Hurt) shocked by Pinkerton’s appalling behavior. Philip Newton photo c/o Seattle Opera

At Seattle Opera’s panel on race and representation in Madame Butterfly, one of the younger speakers asked why anyone would even bother trying to redeem such an opera. The obvious answer was, “The music!” but a part of me felt a little guilty for perpetuating one of those “classics” that should be allowed to die as its cultural relevance fades and its artistic merit is proven less significant than its novelty. I felt even more guilty that by taking my 13-year-old Asian daughter to see it, I could be inflicting harmful stereotypes on the very person they could most affect. I think those were legitimate fears, and could have been valid if Seattle Opera had presented Madame Butterfly without comment. But in the context of the local discussion they have started – wow! What an opera! Continue reading

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