”“Madama Butterfly holds a special place in my heart.”Kate CherryDirector - Madama Butterfly 2019
Kate Cherry gives us insight into Madama Butterfly
It is timely to produce Madama Butterfly at a moment when the world is in such turmoil. The lyricism and beauty of the music make it bearable to contemplate a profoundly disturbing clash of cultures.
Pinkerton is the ultimate careless conqueror. He arrives in Japan and is immediately intoxicated by the easy life it affords him: a 999-year lease on a house that obeys his every command, offering him already trained and highly obedient servants, and a young Geisha girl who will be his wife for as long as he chooses. Pinkerton is happy to boast to the American Consulate, Sharpless that he can brake either contract for the house or the wife whenever he chooses and return to America and a “real wife.”
Pinkerton’s carelessness and disregard are gobsmacking, but not difficult to believe when we contemplate past and present empires. He has come to a place of great beauty, elegance, and complexity, yet he notices little, only what will afford him ease and pleasure. Unlike deep thinking Sharpless, Pinkerton has no curiosity. He can travel the entire world and remain unchanged. He has no need to search for the individuality in Japan, wrapped up in a highly organised collective dominated by rituals and masks he does not even recognise. He makes no attempt to understand what Cho-Cho-San’s place is in her community. He is not on a journey of imagination and daring. His time with Cho-Cho-San fills his senses with exhilaration, and to misquote Tennessee Williams, he “touches heaven” with Cho-Cho-San, a taste of eternity, but for Pinkerton, it is the pleasure of the conqueror—short-lived and easily forgotten.
For Cho-Cho-San her marriage to Pinkerton changes the course of her life. She gives up her religion, her family, and her friends to make an idol of a man with clay feet. As Cho-Cho-San, abandoned by Pinkerton, falls deeper and deeper into poverty, her life in an imagined Utopia with Pinkerton returning to their marital home, takes on a far greater power than the reality of her own life.
It is the “geisha girl” who lives with courage and a profoundly deep sense of honour. In the 3rd act once Cho-Cho-San’s fantasies have been destroyed without mercy; she proves her ability to love unconditionally. Once she is persuaded her son will be better off with his father in America, she lets Sorrow go knowing there is no reason left for her to continue to live.
Madama Butterfly holds a special place in my heart. My husband and I share a child who is half Anglo-Australian, half African-American. It is my greatest hope that as my son becomes a man he can integrate the 2 cultures that have loved and moulded him, and it is my greatest fear, that as the world becomes increasingly dominated by tribal instincts, we will lose our sense of curiosity and empathy and the Sorrows of the world will once again be displaced.
Thank you, Stuart Maunder, for putting together such a wonderful cast and crew for Madama Butterfly and for bringing our production back from Seattle so that Adelaide, where I grew up, can experience an opera for which I care so profoundly.