Detroit Opera is set to kick off its new season on Oct. 7 with a re-imagining of composer Giacomo Puccini’s classic opera, “Madame Butterfly.” Traditionally the opera has faced scrutiny for its depictions of Japanese women and culture. However, this production, led by an all-Japanese and Japanese American creative team, challenges the traditional narrative of the iconic work, which has long been seen through the lens of a white male gaze with no direct connection to Japan.
Detroit Opera’s rendition of “Madame Butterfly” also transports it to the 21st century, re-envisioning the story through the lens of virtual reality and offering a fresh perspective through the modern-day fantasy of a character akin to Lt. Pinkerton. While the music will remain the same, Detroit Opera’s creative team has aimed to introduce a more culturally resonant portrayal of “Madame Butterfly.” You can catch a showing at the Detroit Opera House on Oct. 7, 13 and 15.
Ahead of the opera’s premiere, One Detroit producer Sarah Zientarski got a behind-the-scenes look at the production and talked with some of the creative team involved with bringing it to life. Zientarski talks with two actors, Karah Son who plays Cio-Cio-San and Eric Taylor who plays Lt. Pinkerton, about the examples of Orientalism the iconic opera portrays, how the Detroit Opera’s rendition differs from Puccini’s version, and how the actors are preparing for their debut performance.
Zientarski talks with Associate Director Melanie Bacaling and Costume Director Suzanne Hanna about why people seem to be drawn to the iconic story, the impact they hope this production of “Madame Butterfly” has on the AAPI community in metro Detroit, and how the costumes differ from the original production.
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Watch One Detroit Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. ET on Detroit Public TV on Detroit Public TV, WTVS-Channel 56.