The history of opera is full of stories that deploy faraway places and foreign people as exotic sensations. Using Puccini’s opera ‘Madama Butterfly’ and their own personal experiences, a soprano and a percussionist lead us through the tense history of a genre that operates in between racism and a casting practice that has no interest in performers’ origins or ethnicities.
Botschaft am Worringer Platz
Language: German and English with translation into English and German
Special on 14.06. after the performance:
Audience discussion with the artists and Dr. Azadeh Sharifi, theatre scholar, Ludwig Maximilians University Munich / Postdoc project ‘(Post)migrant Theatre in German Theatre History — (Dis)Continuity of aesthetics and narratives’. Chaired by: Dr. Christian Esch, music theatre dramaturg and Director of the NRW KULTURsekretariat
‘Madama Butterfly’ received its world premiere in 1904 at La Scala, Milan. The piece tells the story of a young Japanese geisha who is married off to an American officer at the turn of the century. Soon after the wedding, he leaves her behind in Japan. Butterfly waits three years for him to return while being consumed with love for him. When he returns with his new American wife to take their son back to America with him, Butterfly takes her own life.
WHITE LIMOZEEN presents photos and film recordings of historical productions of the opera while the two performers reproduce Butterfly’s poses and perform Puccini’s arias. Here it becomes clear how much the performance tradition is dominated by clichés that turn the faraway into the foreign. This examination of ‘Madama Butterfly’ is a consistent theme in the production and the starting point for excursions into the history of classical music and the everyday routines of contemporary opera. The long tradition of black artists appearing on the world’s great stages meets their disappearance from the consciousness of opera history and the current fashion for “colour-blind” casting meets the performers’ experiences of racism. An evening of music theatre that analyses its genre unsparingly without any form of denunciation.
Concept and research: Johannes Müller, Philine Rinnert
Director: Johannes Müller
Design: Philine Rinnert
With: Sarai Cole (Soprano), Sabrina Ma (Percussion)
Contact for touring enquiries: contact[a]jm-pr.org
Produced by BAM! — Berliner Festival für aktuelles Musiktheater. BAM! is an intiative of ZMB — Zeitgenössisches Musiktheater Berlin e.V., made possible by funding from the Hauptstadtkulturfonds, the Schering Stiftung and the Rudolf Augstein Stiftung.
Johannes Müller studied Music Theatre Directing at the Hochschule für Musik “Hanns Eisler” in Berlin. Philine Rinnert studied Stage Design at the Universität der Künste Berlin. Since 2009 they have been creating hybrid forms of music theatre together that examine opera’s past, its effects and techniques while at the same time conducting an archaeology of the present, of entertainment and queer culture. Their projects combine classical music with contemporary discourse and archaeological or pop cultural artefacts. Their works include ‘Operation Spirituelle’ (2013), ‘Herculaneum’ (2014), ‘Reading Salomé’ (2015/16, winner of the Jury Prize at the Favoriten Festival), ‘Mean Greene Mother from outer space’ (2017) and ‘AIDS Follies’ (2018, in collaboration with the composer Genoël von Lilienstern).