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Picturing Cio-Cio-San: House, screen, and ceremony in Puccini's Madama Butterfly

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 January 2002

Abstract

I propose that certain ‘Japanese’ elements of Puccini's Madama Butterfly have cultural analogues that support a reading of the opera as more profoundly authentic than has usually been argued. My discussion begins with the house, the most basic scenic component of the opera, and develops via a number of interrelated issues: the Japanese home as the center of the life cycle, Puccini's choice of the home as his single set, and finally, Butterfly's ‘Vigil’ as the central event in an unfolding home-based life-cycle that raises issues of ritual and ceremony corresponding to values of the geisha culture.

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Copyright
© 2000 Cambridge University Press

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Footnotes

This is an expanded version of ‘Beyond Exoticism: Cio-Cio-San's Screen and the Uses of Convention,’ read at the 16th Congress of the International Musicological Society, London, 1997. A related essay will appear as ‘Issues of Authenticity in Two Films of Puccini's Madama Butterfly: Ponnelle (1974) and Mitterrand ( 1995),’ in Das Musiktheater in den audiovisuellen Medien: ‘ersichtlich gewordene Taten der Musik,’ ed. Peter Csobádi, Gernot Gruber, Jürgen Kühnel and Oswald Panagl ( Salzburg, 2001). I wish to thank John Daverio, Tomie Hahn, Ralph P. Locke, Peter Row and Derek B. Scott for reading and commenting on earlier drafts of this essay.
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