Opera Philadelphia Presents 'Madame Butterfly' at Academy of Music April 26-May 5

BySteph Walton WPVI logo
Monday, April 22, 2024
Opera Philadelphia Presents 'Madame Butterfly',  April 26-May 5
Puccini's 'Madame Butterfly' has been a classic for more than a century. Opera Philadelphia is adding a fresh perspective to the story.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Puccini's 'Madame Butterfly' takes flight at the Academy of Music.

"In the original production it's a Japanese girl," says Karen Chia-ling Ho, who plays Cio Cio San, the butterfly.

In the Opera Philadelphia's presentation, she is a Japanese doll.

"I will be the spirit of the doll," says Ho.

It's a production that adds a new perspective.

Production Designer Yuki Izumihara says she decided to have a dual story, "to share that experience of when an Asian person actually see this opera - what do they see?"

"People think about Cio Cio San, the butterfly, they think it's a very submissive Japanese woman," says Ho. "This opera is breaking up the stereotype."

The opera, written in 1904, is set in Nagasaki, Japan.

B.F. Pinkerton, a U.S. naval officer, meets Cio Cio San in Japan.

"She's a geisha girl," says Izumihara. "He actually purchases Cio Cio San to be his bride."

She falls in love, but he's not serious about the relationship.

"He is looking forward to actually have his quote-unquote, 'proper wife,' in United States later," she says.

"It's sad, because it's not a love story," says Ho.

"Cio Cio San was a purchased doll for him, so she's heartbroken," says Izumihara.

The figurative doll becomes an actual character in the show, created by Philadelphia-based puppet artist, Hua Hua Zhang.

She is also one of the puppeteers in the show.

Ho says she was taught how to manipulate the puppet, to humanize it a little bit for audiences.

The Puccini music is the same, but the ending has changed.

"I wish she, Cio Cio San, the character, believed in herself, rather than believing in Pinkerton," says Izumihara.

She says she's hoping to initiate a dialogue of "where Asian communities are with art and representation" with this production.

Opera Philadelphia presents 'Madame Butterfly' from April 26 through May 5 at the Academy of Music.

Opera Philadelphia presents 'Madame Butterfly' | Tickets

Academy of Music

240 S Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19102