Sunday, December 16, 2012



As part of the recent OFF-MIRVISH Second Stage Series, Anthony Rapp's one man musical show is a virtuoso theatrical event that pulls at the heartstrings and gives audiences an intimate glimpse of the now historic development of the groundbreaking musical RENT. With disarming candor, a powerful and beautiful singing voice, and a knack for poignant and funny vocal characterizations of those closest to him, Rapp moves seamlessly through an eighty minute elegiac tribute to two of the most significant individuals in his life - his mother and Jonathan Larson.

Larson's tragic death is now a part of musical theatre history, and Rapp gives his audience a personal glimpse into the period when Larson was beginning to see his dream come true, with Rapp as one of a large extended family of gifted artists who became part of the internationally acclaimed hit based on the opera La Boheme. Using songs by REM as well as numbers from RENT, Rapp connects the events of his life over the past two decades through song and storytelling in a moving, funny, and thoroughly engaging manner.

A five piece band has a spectacular finale as Rapp closes the show - and brings the audience to its feet - with Larson's memorable Season's of Love. Lighting by Tim Mascall gives the bare stage a powerful theatricality that beautifully punctuates the simplicity this one man tour-de-force embodies. By simply speaking to his audience in a direct and honest way, Rapp has been able to create a universal message about love and loss and ways in which to move through those life events with both sadness and joy. The show is a tribute to family of all kinds, with significant nods to the ways in which queerness has become, with the aid of shows like RENT and artists like Anthony Rapp and Jonathan Larson, an iconic site for a very special kind of enduring community building among the disenfranchised and the musically blessed.


WITHOUT YOU RUNS FROM Dec 13, 2012 to Jan 6, 2013 
AT THE PANASONIC THEATRE 
651 Yonge Street,Toronto, ON M4Y 1Z9 416 872-1212



                                                        Jonathan Larson (February 4, 1960 – January 25, 1996)






            

                                                                                      http://www.mirvish.com/pages/offmirvish

Mirvish Productions launches a series of acclaimed new productions from our own community, local productions of award-winning international new plays and original productions of new works from the world festival circuits.
The inaugural series is composed of TERMINUS from Outside the March theatre company, Anthony Rapp’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival hit WITHOUT YOU, the multi-award-winning CLYBOURNE PARK from Studio 180 Theatre, and Mary Walsh’s new show DANCING WITH RAGE.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A BRIMFUL OF ASHA

The current re-mount Of Asha and Ravi Jain's heartwarming collaborative performance A Brimful of Asha is a wonderful testament to the ways in which cross-cultural anxiety and complex family structures can become great drama. This mother and son team are blessed by a powerful rapport that moves seamlessly from a kind of loving, comic antagonism into truly intense, dramatic moments of great distress created by a strong and well argued battle of wills. 
As Artistic Director of Why Not Productions, and director of the current Tarragon production, Ravi Jain has found a spectacular, one of a kind co-creator who graces the stage with  tremendous composure, sweetness, and generosity of spirit. Seated for the entire performance, Asha Jain represents a frequently serene oppositional force in the face of her son's lively and relentless desire to make his own choices. At times Ravi seems to almost parody his mother's logic as she articulates her very detailed beliefs regarding marriage and family. When the son wryly declares, "who can argue with logic like that," in the face of his mother's circuitous narrative route, it is obvious that the two family members have belief systems based in profoundly different structures regarding religion as it relates to 'God' and family. The word 'God' is used at least twice in the script and resonates with a powerful sense of how logic and spirituality works for many people.


A very poignant moment occurs when Asha re-tells the story of a life dream that took a rather unexpected route and landed her in a very "foreign" snowy environment - Canada. This is an immigrant story that has been placed within a kind of hybrid performance site developed through improvisational structures and then tightly scripted into 90 minutes of sheer entertainment and moving testimony - and the fourth wall is deliciously shattered at the outset as warm samosas are shared with spectators before and after the show.
Typical of great theatre - and theatricality - an awkward form of very thought provoking laughter emerges from time to time when the parody from Ravi's physically manic side of the coin tends to make it difficult to know whether his mothers views are being laughed with or laughed at. But as Asha tells her son, "We are two sides of the same coin." This concise cliche works beautifully as audiences take an up close and personal journey with two very talented storytellers who may seem at loggerheads when in fact they are simply trying to fit their world views into their immense love for each other. 


A BRIMFUL OF ASHA RUNS AT TARRAGON THEATRE UNTIL DECEMBER 16TH


for further information on Why NOT THEATRE and A Brimful of Asha go to
http://theatrewhynot.org/brimful/

A Brimful of Asha
published by Playwrights Canada Press

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

RUBBERBANDance Group


website: Each being is both at the centre of the world and orbiting around others. Interdependence is obvious and struggles are inevitable. In a space out of time, RBDG’s raw movement expresses all the weight of this adversarial relationship. The five dancers – a family, a nomadic tribe or an entire people – interweave, fight, crave and hustle in an astonishing fluidity of action. All of this, only to survive.
With Gravity of Center, Victor Quijada succeeds to contain the ferocity of hip hop in a perfectly reined choreographic language. Between dynamic rhythms and physical prowess, the company’s unique vocabulary is the epicenter of this eighth creation.
Quijada collaborates on this production with creators dear to RUBBERBANDance Group. Yan Lee Chan sculpts the space with its lighting as Jasper Gahunia, DJ Lil Jaz, creates an atmosphere with music that is the true link to RUBBERBANDance Group’s visual aesthetic.
http://rubberbandance.com/projects/gravity-of-center/


RUBBERBANDance Group’s Gravity of Centre was a complex and exciting piece of extended choreography that reached powerful momentum by the end of a program that ranged form intimate, beautifully lit moments of ensemble work to solo virtuosic flips and contortions that meshed seamlessly with a background of integrated bodies and movement. The narrative force of the overall work, focusing upon the implications of “a family, a nomadic tribe or an entire people” shed a diverse light upon interactive movement that ranged from abrupt hostile explosions to lighter, nuanced moments of gorgeous woven movement.
The sheer length of the evening, never faltering through a relentless commitment to a kind of carefully conceived collective creativity, gradually traces the evolution of adversarial relationships as individuals struggle to survive, compete, cooperate, and thrive within physical and visual aesthetics that test the endurance and vitality of people fighting for secure prominence through both harmony and discord. As powerful groups and mighty individuals searching for a central position within the often destabilizing gravity of being alive on a shaky planet, the artists involved in Gravity of Centre must be applauded for the power of their skill, artistry, and utterly engaging endurance.

Choreographer: Victor Quijada Performers: Victor Quijada, Anne Plamondon, Emmanuelle Lê Phan, Elon Höglund and Daniel MayoLighting Design: Yan Lee Chan Composer: Jasper Gahunia Costume Designer: Julie Charland


A DanceWorks presentation at Harbourfront Centre's Fleck Dance 
Theatre, Nov. 16-17, 2012 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Little Years




The current production of John Mighton's The Little Years is a beautiful production of a very tender play about aging, fame, and the seemingly tenuous connections we humans seem to frequently have with one another. A stellar cast led by Chick Reid and Irene Poole inject heightened emotional clarity into Mighton's poetic text with the aid of Chirs Abraham's spare, perfectly pitched direction. Actors are carefully arranged within stark white playing areas defined by a glistening white set by Julie Fox, complemented by her gorgeous sharply defined costumes, evocative lighting by Kimberly Purtell, and effective, emotionally jarring composition and sound design by Thomas Ryder Payne.

Reid makes the transition from lively nineteen fifties matriarch to ailing, embittered elderly mother with a kind of serene gracefulness marked by bittersweet moments of comically nasty insensitivity. Ari Cohen and Pamel Sinha match Reid's seamless movement from relative youth into later stages of life as their characters are rendered with a fine sense of nuance and layered dignity. When Cohen's character refers to himself as the Barry Manilow of the art world a comically chilling moment of clarity occurs for any of us whose antique LP collection included a few of Barry's emotionally charged pop tunes from our timeworn pasts.

There are moments when a couple of the wigs seem to cry out for a little more naturalism within an intimate theatre space, but this is a minor glitch in an otherwise beautifully realized play dependent upon the passage of time within the minds and bodies of a very distinct cast of characters.



Mighton's script plays with elements of mathematics and art as it deftly attests to the acclaimed playwright/mathematician's proficiency with both words and numbers as he skillfully sculpts a smouldeirng treatise on the fleeting nature of time, notoriety, and mere human existence. Clear measured delivery and sharp characterization from the entire cast creates a powerful metaphoric connection between science, emotional instability, and aesthetic beauty.

Standout performances by Bethany Jillard and Irene Poole create a climactic intensity that gives Mighton's final scenes a very moving and satisfying ending that journeys into the realm of hopeful 
redemption and elegiac grace.




On opening night Artistic Director Richard Rose announced the recent passing of David Freeman, whose  critically acclaimed play Creeps opened the inaugural Tarragon season forty two years ago. A toast was made in the lobby, and an enduring sense of Canadian theatre artists, as individuals to be celebrated for their tenacity and skill, connected well to Mighton's timeless message regarding the essence of life as a very delicate and puzzling experience to behold.



THE LITTLE YEARS RUNS AT TARRAGON THEATRE UNTIL DECEMBER 16TH



Thursday, November 1, 2012

ENDGAME

 Eric Peterson and Maria Vacratsis as Nagg and Nell 
Joseph Ziegler and Diego Matamoros as Hamm and Clov

In Soulpepper's remarkably beautiful production of Samuel Beckett's classic  'absurdist' dramedy, ENDGAME, director Daniel Brooks has revisited a piece of theatre that won him a Dora award for best productIon of the year over a decade ago. Brooks felt that "there was still so much to explore." And exploration is precisely the impulse that makes this a first rate production of a gorgeous poetic text. As the curtain rises the audience is immediately aware of the play as an articulate interrogation of all the sights and sounds that come with a piece of writing that continues to inspire spectators and artists alike with its timeless mixture of great melancholy and profound mirth. 

Eric Peterson and Maria Vacratsis, as Nagg and Nell, deliver their lines as though they were symphonically in sync with the text and each others individual take on it. Silent moments of strained corporeal connection shed a sharp light on their incredible talent for comic physicalization and facial expression that incorporates pathos in a brilliant and poignant manner.

Diego Matamoros reprises the role he played in 1999 and gives the character of Clov an intense, stylized gait and explosively refined way of speaking that renders him the perfect straight man for Joseph Ziegler's superb version of the domineering Hamm. Ziegler is able to subtly deliver his overbearing directives in a way that highlights the poetic nature of a script that alludes to the work of T.S. Eliot, Santayana, Shakespeare, and Dante.

Set design by Julie Fox and costumes by Victoria Wallace create a deceptively light monotone  environment that creates a dense confining space for the captive cast to inhabit. Richard Ferren's moments of  technically superb sound design punctuate the opening and final curtain with the elegant, timeless quality Brooks has saturated the overall production with. 

There is a tendency to view Beckett as a gloomy, meandering poetic voice in search of no real message at all. The current Soupepper production neither meanders nor falls into pointless despair. It entertains from beginning to end and refuses to answer all of the questions that have not been asked. A panoply of citation, poetic intertextuality, bewildered dialectic confusion, weathered romance, and existential play, this is a superb production of a classic text that flies in the face of naturalist interpretation - becoming a melancholy and delightful playground for sight, sound, and the frequently goofy, utterly bewildering experience of being alive.

running at the Young Centre (Distillery district)  through November

Thursday, October 4, 2012

STEEL ANIMALS






The powerful, brash, and magically sassy website for S.K. Dyment's novel Steel Animals (complete with comprehensive study guide) reflects the dynamic, surreal sense of  journey, abandonment, romantic discord, and hilarious entanglement that fills the pages of this remarkable first novel from a writer whose creative imagination never ceases to amaze. The sheer dexterity of phrasing and ideas from start to finish make this 270 page tour de force a thoroughly enjoyable, sexy, and consistently thrilling read. Corporate corruption, hijacked bank machines, and towering condos filter in and out of a complex web of scenes and relationships that culminate in violent arboreal splendour. Dyment skilfully blends a sense of unspoiled nature with a sharp sense of material complexity and potential doom -

"November. A skiff of snow has descended on Vancouver. The snow dusts the green      peaks that embrace it. They look like torn paper unwrapped by a careless child, abruptly crumple-pressed against a backdrop of glowing blue blending to bone."

Sexuality constantly re-invents itself as characters commingle with thoughts that simply and concisely define astute sensual bodies as mutable agents of desire and sincere human ingenuity -

"They lie in bed together and exchange touches and sounds that express things that are to equal degrees more unexpected and more fantastic than either lover can imagine. They are enamored with their invention of each other."

Reminiscent of Tom Robbins, Steel Animals, as a mighty serio-comic novel, utilizes a kind of magical surrealism that serves to punctuate the dire effects of certain corporate entities. Dyment gives readers an up close and personal 'queer' portrait of these truly memorable characters. Beautifully described sexual exploits, in all their fabulous gender-fuck mutations, subtly channel lithe sexy motorcycle play, black swans with a high rate of homosexual pair bonding, and sheer titillating flesh to flesh human contact. Ancient taboos are broken and alluring alliances are re-configured as chance encounters become lifelong fixations.

This is a novel not to to be missed. With a filmic, intellectually soap-opera 'ish flair, an ensemble of vibrant and distinct personalities come to life with literary precision and unique temperamental trumpets to blow - all the time exhibiting the virtuosic imagination of a writer hell bent on revealing as much as one novel possibly can regarding the obsessive, chaotic, and truly entertaining aspects of 21st century mayhem - simultaneously urban, bucolic and utterly other worldly.










proartedanza

proartedanza










L-R sitting: Louis Laberge-Cote, Johanna Bergfelt and Kristen Dennis perform in the world premiere of Expire, choreographed by ProArteDanza Artistic Director Roberto Campanella 
and Artistic Associate Robert Glumbek
proartedanza's current selection of dance programs, running until October 6th at the Fleck Dance Theatre (Harbourfront) is a diverse, thrilling, at times overly electic collection of intriguing choreographic sequences.
_____________________________________________________________

Roberto Campanella's Decorum, the first offering of the evening, provides a beautifully cloistered, balletic study in physical and emotional relationship-based values - originally created for Ballet Jorgen and re-worked for Rex Harrington and Evelyn Hart in 2005. Kristen Dennis and Tyler Gledhill take on this passionate, brief, and tightly conceived duet with great precision as they sustain a kind of concealed, smoldering emotion that acts as a perfect counterpoint to the intense musical selections (Tabula Rasa , 1. Ludus - Con Moto from Silencio; Part, Glass & Martynov by Avro Pärt)

Positioning Gledhill as a kind of 'straight' man who acts as secondary but crucial physical support for his paramour's skilfull and beautiful contortions, the piece leaves one with the all too fleeting sense of love gone terribly dramatic and passionately private. 

Gorgeous costuming by Melanie McNeill is in perfect sync with the emotion and the choreography as form fitting formal wear hugs Gledhill's powerful physique - while the soft translucent folds of Kristen Dennis's frock flails and flutters with delicate athletic prowess at every lift, flight of fancy, and romantic endowment.   

Robert Glumbeck and Roberto Campanella's co-conceived piece, Expire, dares to use what appears to be a large swath of tie-dyed fabric to gorgeous effect. Dancers skillfully weave in and out of what could have been a mere textile induced cliche 
in the hands of less skillful performers. Ultimately the vivacity, nuance, and sheer precision of the kinetically inclined draped forms, as they move in and out of the mind's eye with a powerful fabric-ated flair, renders the work a stunning visual study in "physiological and psychological well-being" affected profoundly by the "simple act of breathing." (program note) Filled with a myriad of somewhat disjointed moments that could use more succinct work on the transitions, Expire might have fared better at the beginning of the program (before the perfectly pitched length of the opening duet, Decorum) - and it could be shorter by at least a third. As it stands, the work manages to sustain even the most disconnected moments through choreographic diversity, skilled execution, and Melanie McNeill's evocative set & costume design.




L-R: Kristen Dennis and Johanna Bergfelt perform in the world premiere of Expire, choreographed by ProArteDanza Artistic Director Roberto Campanella and Artistic Associate Robert Glumbek



Kevin O'Day's We Will (2008) delights and skillfully estranges the ear and eye with brief, startling, at times disarming moments of spoken text that attempt to impose a kind of post-modern self-consciousness onto the dancers as they engage in a battle of "wills where two support, tease, and destroy and desire each other in mercurial fashion." (program note) This supposed mercuriality is incredibly effective, yet broken in a somewhat bewildering way by the unexpected moments that break the fourth wall with a surprising textual candor that doesn't quite gel. The repeated, spoken idea of 'starting over' - once the action has clearly begun to engage viewers - might have been handled with a more paradoxical blend of fluidity and disjointed stagecraft (i.e. - lighting, sound). Somewhat lengthy and repetitive at times, the intricate, challenging physical feats displayed by Robert Glumbeck and Mami Hata give the piece an exhilarating charm that overcomes the time-based & narrative concerns that the concept of 'expiration' evokes.

Campanella and Glumbeck end the evening with their mesmerizing Beethoven’s 9th - 1st Movement (2009). A row of chairs act as a simple starting point for a labyrinthine sequence of movements that take on a kind of Master Class effect as each dancer rises and takes their turn at paying homage to an “incomparable piece of music.” The thundering strength and familiarity of Beethoven’s masterpiece is matched by the dancers, providing a very satisfying finale to an evening that utilizes an incredible diversity of sight and sound.

Front: Delphine Leroux and Tyler Gledhill perform in Beethoven's 9th - 1st Movement, choreographed by ProArteDanza Artistic Director Roberto Campanella and Artistic Associate Robert Glumbek




Tuesday, October 2, 2012

performance as an act of intervention - part two



Victims suggest innocence. And innocence, by the inexorable logic that governs all relational terms, suggests guilt.
Susan Sontag (b. 1933), U.S. essayist. AIDS and Its Metaphors, ch. 1 (1989)... performance has participated in shaping ourunderstanding and experience of AIDS......theatrical practices as instances of various cultural moments - in all their multiplicity and even contradiciton...ACTS OF INTERVENTION; Performance, Gay Culture, and AIDS by David Román (Introduction, 1998)

__________

an excerpt from WHAT'S IT LIKE? - EXCERPT ENTITLED; Does This Giacometti Make Me Look Fat or ART IMMUNO DEFICIENCY SYNDROME - written and performed by David Bateman

I get tired of the excessive minimalism cluttering the stark white walls of the post pre-middle modern wing, so I wander away form the posing as straight, poly amorous bisexual couple with the autistic grand daughter in the black and white room and then I see them again in the Giacometti gallery 

And I ask the woman if she would be so kind as to take my photo beside The Walking Man sculpture

She politely agrees to do so, and when she is finished I thank her and say,

“Does this Giacometti make me look fat?”


She smiles a quizzical smile and walks away

I wasted my best joke of the day on her.

But that was my aim.

I wanted to see how she would respond, so I said something peculiar to her to see what her reaction would be.

I can be such a rude, manipulative bastard sometimes.

It’s great fun.

But there are also times filled with great tenderness and serenity, mostly when I’m all alone.

For example, I daydream about having all of the drinking glasses in my white IKEA kitchen cupboards in perfect order.

I imagine them all standing in a row in a beautiful white cupboard.

And then I begin to imagine filling them all with water while they are still in the cupboard

And then setting up lighting in my kitchen with soft lighting on them.

And then photographing all of the gorgeous glasses

And the photo comes out this stunningly beautiful study in shades of grey and black and white

And I call the photo (pause) Whistler’s Cupboard,

and for those viewers unfamiliar with the original title of the iconic American painting Whistler’s Mother - Arrangement in grey and Black No. 1 - located in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris (pause) France)

I subtitle the photograph (pause) Water! - and do a series of prints in color with a blue tint for a more (pause) ‘populist’ sensibility

And then one day I go to a gallery where my photograph is hanging

And the couples from (pause) Chicago, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Saskatchewan, Toronto are standing in front of my photograph

And they just stand there and stare at it

She is wearing a loud print skirt and a plain yellow blouse.

He is wearing a pastel sports shirt and plain brown trousers

They look like a modernist diptych tableau vivant come to life

I squint and their bodies in front of the photo begin to look like a collision between Jack Bush (slide) Peter Max (slide) Jules Olitski (slide) and a fabulous silk floral arrangement form the home décor section at Walmart

Through this haze of strained commodified modernism I hear the people begin to speak

(woman speaks first)
It’s just a picture of water glasses. Anyone could have taken that. I wonder how much he got paid for letting them hang it in here.

He should have paid them. Can you buy the art in this place?
No dear, I don’t think you can. But I’m sure there are some lovely postcards in the gift shop.

We should have gone to the gift shop first, then we would have known where the good stuff was.

But we would have missed a lot of interesting things.
What good is it just hanging here all the time? It should be for sale.
Well, if you could buy it, wouldn’t you think that one of the farmer and his wife would have sold by now. It’s very famous.

I read the brochure. That’s not his wife.
What are you saying?
That’s not the farmer and his wife. That’s his daughter.
That’s just stupid.
Well I read it in the brochure.
She looks old enough to be his wife and she’s very homely. And he’s no Rock Hudson himself. Very strange shaped head, but quite life like. I don’t like it.

It’s a good painting. I still find it hard to believe Rock was gay, even though he got the AIDS. I mean, anyone can get it now, right?

[American Gothic slide} I don’t like it so much.

It captures a real sense of those two people as hard working farmers.
I don’t see why you can’t be a hard working farmer and attractive at the same time.

That’s not a nice thing to say, and if you can’t say anything nice [interrupted]
I know, I know, and then don’t say anything at all.
They look like very pleasant down to earth people
They look boring as hell. And if that is his daughter then I’m a monkey’s uncle.
Well you really don’t know much about art do you.
And neither do you.
I know what I like.
I know what I don’t like, and I don’t like what you like.
You liked that one of the diner.
Yes, I did. I did like that one. The people in it are quite nice looking.
You can barely see their faces.
You can see enough to tell that they’re good looking.
I heard that the guy who took that photo of the glasses died of AIDS.
Where on earth did you hear that?
When you were in that room looking at all those flowers that look like vaginas I went into the next room and two very feminine gentlemen were standing in front of it and I overhead what they were saying. I think one of them might have been crying. He kept saying how beautiful the glasses were and how the water looked so clear and pure and how it was some kind of metaphor to illness.

Well what on earth was he crying about?
Feminine men get very worked up about AIDS sometimes.
Well I get thirsty looking at that photograph. It makes me thirsty. It certainly doesn’t make me cry, and if he died of AIDS, that photographer, well, it was his own damn fault.


'Global Projects' - performance as an act of intervention, part one








"... I oppose the global project and I believe in another kind of global eccentricism project that comes from within, from the bottom up, that is ‘cooked’ on the streets and that organically emerges out of it. You know, the migrations of people throughout the world; and that kind of global project is almost opposite to the one imposed by the master minds of globalization, right?" 


Guillermo Gomez Pena



"And what in the hell did Puccini know about the identity crisis of a Japanese Geisha in Nagasaki in 1904 anyway? What in the hell did he know about butterflies? What in the hell do I know about the identity of a Geisha in Nagasaki in 1904? I am a middle aged white Canadian faggot. I have the ethnicity of a loaf of Wonder Bread. My forefathers are the Man from Glad, Mr. Clean, and Jack Daniels. How on earth do I position myself within a fragmented postmodern narrative about an innocent Geisha and Popeye the American sailor man?"      

from Lotus Blossom Speical; Metamorphosis and misidentificaiton in Madama Butterfly by David Bateman

Add caption

Butterfly’s Borders: Gender, Geography, Fantasy and Experience in David
Bateman’s Lotus Blossom Special
Larissa Lai

Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly begins with a mock marriage.  This type of
marriage supposedly belongs to Japanese tradition, at least, in the imagination of the
librettist. The callous American sailor Pinkerton, eager for a temporary Japanese wife
marries the naïve, fifteen-year-old Butterfly in a contract that binds them for nine
hundred and ninety-nine years, “but with the option, at ev’ry month, to cancel the
contract.” Both are ecstatic at the union, but for Pinkerton, it is a frivolity, while for
Butterfly, in spite of her relatives’ admonitions, it is deadly serious. The opera’s tragedy
turns on the misunderstanding between play and reality. This is indicated in the very
opening of the opera, with Pinkerton and Goro observing the mobility of the walls of the
house in which Pinkerton and Butterfly are to be husband and wife. The walls and ceiling
“come and will go, just/ as it may suit your fancy.” Pinkerton calls the house a “fairy
dwelling,” which, Goro observes “Springs like a tow’r from nowhere.” Like the fairy
house, Butterfly, for Pinkerton, is a toy (“the age/ of playthings”)  to play with until he
marries “a real wife from America.” To Butterfly, who, in the logic of the opera, inhabits
only the world of play, the marriage is serious and solemn. Those who live in fairyland
experience it as “real.” Tellingly, while showing Pinkerton her treasures, she throws
away her pot of carmine (the stuff of artifice) but keeps the very real dagger her father
used to commit suicide at the Mikado’s command some years prior.

The opera draws a frame around Butterfly, her house, and indeed, Japan itself. It
is self-aware, but it is not self-reflexive in the sense of seeing it’s imperialist
misrecognition of Asian women. It lays the error of reading at Butterfly’s feet. She can
not see who she is. Pinkerton might be callous, but because he is American (and real) and
she is Japanese (and therefore of the imagination), he cannot be expected to stay with her.
In the logic of the opera, Butterfly’s tragedy lies in her own misrecognition of both
herself and her lover.

Of course we, as good postcolonial readers think we know better. We understand
that Madama Butterfly is a racist, imperialist imagining of Asian femininity. In the
context of American imperialism in Asia, if one thinks of its military bases in the
Phillipines, or more pointedly Vietnam (which is what makes the newer rendition of the
opera, Miss Saigon, so appalling) the international political context in which the opera
circulates is racist and offensive. The right-on stance of contemporary race politics is to
read the opera as a bad Western race fantasy, and move on to produce other, better
representations. However, in recent years, as myself and others have discussed elsewhere,
the difficulty of producing “better representations” that do not get consumed in a newly
Orientalist way, has shown itself to be difficult if not impossible.

David Bateman’s performance piece Lotus Blossom Special, then, takes on a
slightly different strategy. He re-engages the narrative of the opera to show us something
about whiteness, masculinity, camp and queer sexuality. In so doing, he reveals that these
may in fact be the real subjects of the original opera, and not Asian femininity at all.
Puccini may have been more conscious of this than his audiences, if the framing is any
indication.