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

What Have I Done for You Lately?


Well, I’m back at the government work, editing construction project management plans. But I have found time amidst all that excitement to write a few things that I hope you’ll enjoy or find useful.

Here’s what I’ve written lately:

Continue reading

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

Ticket Season – Part One, Seattle Opera

“I love tickets!” squeals Cameron Diaz’s character in the first Charlie’s Angels movie. (And why has no one ever made a gif of that?) It’s supposed to illustrate what an eccentric character she is, but I understand completely. I love tickets. And spring is ticket season. Season-ticket season, to be precise. All of the arts organizations announce their upcoming seasons, tickets go on sale, and I spend hours each spring planning what I will be doing on Saturday nights all next winter. Case in point: Seattle Opera.

Continue reading

Maria Stuarda and other Powerful Women

Joyce El-Khoury (Mary Stuart), Michael Todd Simpson (Cecil) and Keri Alkema (Elizabeth I). Jacob Lucas photo c/o Seattle Opera

Joyce El-Khoury (Mary Stuart), Michael Todd Simpson (Cecil) and Keri Alkema (Elizabeth I). Jacob Lucas photo c/o Seattle Opera

I always feel a little sorry for Donizetti. He’s like a low-ranking player in the NBA – easily better at his game than anyone you’ve ever met, but forever overshadowed by his more talented peers. Donizetti worked in the first half of the 19th century and a handful of his operas are still performed today. That’s pretty good. But he’s still not as famous as the other big bel canto composers, Verdi and Puccini, and with good reason. His canto is bel, but to my ear, feels a little … predictable? Formulaic? But Donizetti has one advantage over his peers – an interest in powerful women.

Continue reading

Seattle Opera Frost Fest

c/o Seattle Opera

c/o Seattle Opera

Most of my paid writing covers the intersection between the arts and family life, and I am in the middle of crafting a pitch on introducing kids to opera, so Seattle Opera’s Frost Fest on February 6 is right in the center of my wheelhouse. Unfortunately, that day I have appointments and activities scheduled from 10 am to 10 pm, and I’m double booked for a big chunk of that time. Maybe some of you can take my place and tell me how it goes?

Details after the fold. Continue reading