This Week on One Detroit:

AllJapanese, Japanese American creative team re-imagines ‘Madame Butterfly’ for Detroit Opera 

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. 

Asian Americans in the arts: A conversation of representation, progress around Detroit Opera’s ‘Madame Butterfly’

Often marred in scrutiny and negative associations among members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, composer Giacomo Puccini’s classic opera “Madame Butterfly” has been re-imagined by an all-Japanese and Japanese American creative team for Detroit Opera. The opera is set to premiere Oct. 7, with subsequent performances on Oct. 13 and 15.

Detroit Opera’s re-imagined production, led by Director Matthew Ozawa, has set out to challenge the traditional narrative of the iconic work, which has faced scrutiny for its themes of Orientalism and depictions of Japanese women and culture. One Detroit’s commitment to highlighting the local AAPI community’s stories led us to ask some of Detroit’s Asian American activists and creatives their thoughts on Detroit Opera’s re-envisioned version of “Madame Butterfly.” 

One Detroit senior producer Bill Kubota sat down with Jasmine Rivera, co-executive director of Rising Voices, filmmaker and graphic artist Chien-An Yuan, and Mika Kennedy, an assistant professor at Ithaca College’s Center for the Study of Culture, Race and Ethnicity, to explore the historical representations in “Madame Butterfly” and how Detroit Opera’s new rendition addresses these cultural concerns.  

Plus, they talk about earlier adaptations of “Madame Butterfly;” Techno-Orientalism — a concept coined by Kevin Morley and David Robins in 1995 that portrays Asia as a site of technological hyperdevelopment and cultural regression; and the rise of AAPI representation in media, arts and performances. 

One Detroit Weekend: October 6, 2023

Fall is upon us, and there’s plenty to do in Detroit to enjoy the season. Check out the Cinderella World Ballet Series, explore more than 50 food trucks at the Detroit Harvest Fest & Food Truck Rally, or join the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History for its annual gala. Here are some of the arts and cultural events you can find around metro Detroit this weekend and into next week. Watch “One Detroit Weekend” with contributor Peter Whorf of 90.9 WRCJ.

List of Upcoming Events:  

  • The World Ballet Series is bringing the timeless fairytale Cinderella live to Detroit for one night only on Oct. 6 at Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts. The ballet will be brought to life by a cast of 40 multinational ballet dancers. 
  • The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History will host its annual Wright Gala on Oct. 7 at the museum with the theme “Masks of the Diaspora Masquerade Ball.” Plus, see an exclusive sneak peek of a special exhibit opening Oct. 10.  
  • Detroit Opera’s performances of “Madame Butterfly” kick off on Oct. 7 at the Detroit Opera House. Enjoy the re-imagined adaptation of the iconic opera and produced by an all-Japanese and Japanese American creative team. 
  • The Tipping Point Theatre in Northville presents Alfred Uhry’s “Driving Miss Daisy” on select dates through Oct. 29. Watch the timeless production about two characters who learn to navigate their relationship during a new era in the South.  
  • Grammy Award-winning musician, producer and record label founder Ben Harper is coming to Royal Oak Music Theatre with his band The Innocent Criminals on Oct. 10. They will be joined by supporting acts Volebeats and The Jack Moves. 
  • The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy will bring together more than 50 food trucks, live music, and some fun fall activities for the whole family at the Detroit Harvest Fest & Food Truck Rally on the Dequindre Cut Greenway on Oct. 7-8. 
  • The Library Street Collective presents “Lost in Translation,” an exhibit by artists Tiffany Alfonseca and Monica Hernandez, on display through Nov. 8. The exhibit explores the artists’ Dominican roots and identity as women.  
  • The Midwest Buddhist Meditation Center in Warren will host a Thai Market on Oct. 8. Learn about the flavors and festivities that make up Thai culture.

‘Detroit Performs: Live From Marygrove’ kicks off season 13 performances with FAR Therapeutic

There’s a new season of “Detroit Performs: Live From Marygrove” coming to a TV near you at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 11. The season premiere kicks off with performances by clients of FAR Therapeutic Arts and Recreation, which provides creative arts therapy for people with disabilities.  

Watch FAR Therapeutic client Leo Palmer sing “In My Shoes.” The season 13 premiere also features performances by FAR clients Asia Anderson and the percussion group Phat Beats.  

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