Cio-Cio San: Object Butterfly

Mira Crouch

Abstract


Madam Butterfly is Puccini's best known and, according to some commen-tators, most hackneyed work (cf. Drummond, 1980; Kerman, 1956). Such an evaluation is not inconsistent with the opera's popularity; quite the op-posite may in fact be the case. Fortunately the parameters of this discussion allow us to eschew consideration of arguments regarding the aesthetic merits of the opera. Its popularity on the other hand certainly precipitates, for a social scientist, the search for its social meaning which, apart from its musico/ dramatic worth (questionable or otherwise), can be assumed to constitute at least part of the basis of its appeal. It is the contention of this paper that images of both gender and race are evoked by the main figure of the opera, Cio-Cio San (Madam Butterfly herself), and that it is the power of those images with all their connotations, brought forth by the dynamics of the music, that impresses and draws the opera's audiences.

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