Monday, April 23, 2012

Adoption Coercion in Opera

This weekend, Michael took me to a performance of Madame Butterfly, as part of a celebration of my birthday this month.

I bawled my way through "Tu Tu piccolo iddio."  The stranger next to me must have thought I was crazy, because I couldn't reach my handkerchief in my purse, so I was using my sweater.

Michael and I both talked about it later , that while we were watching, we were thinking of the millions of birth moms around the world who make difficult choices, sometimes of their own accord and sometimes with coercion.

To set the scene, Butterfly is a geisha in Japan who marries under Japanese laws an American sailor. The sailor has no intentions of making an honest marriage with Butterfly and rejoices in the ease of dissolution of marriage in Japan.  She, however, is convinced that it will be a permanent marriage, and she renounces her religion, her culture, and her family.  He leaves her with a promise of a return "when the robins are nesting."  She hopes for three years for his return, and she had his son after the sailor left.  He was unaware he had a son. 

After three years, she receives communication from the American consulate that her husband does not plan to return to her.  She shows the consulate the child, and the consulate writes to the sailor.  The sailor comes back to Japan, but he is too weak of a man to face Butterfly himself.  His American wife ends up telling Butterfly the news, and she also offers to adopt the little boy.  The offer to Butterfly is that she can return to being a geisha or that she can marry a wealthy man in Japan.  She feels that it would be better to die than to live in shame, so she consents to the adoption, saying she would only comply if the sailor came to receive the child himself.

This is the part where "Tu Tu piccolo iddio" is sung.

She places her son facing the door that the sailor will come in and gives him an American flag to play with.  She then moves to another corner of the room and kills herself in the typical fashion of Japanese honor killings.  The sailor and consulate come into the room just as she falls to the floor and the little boy reaches out to her.  And that's the end.

Now you think I'm crazy for bawling?

Of course, it was beautifully performed, and I was so happy to have a chance to have an adult date with Michael, but we agreed it was probably not an opera we'll have Million watch until he is old enough to delineate between fictional Americans adopting and real Americans adopting.

I think I'll throw some pictures of my happy boys in this post, just to even it out a little.


  1. Oh for the love of mike. That was intense.....

  2. I needed those happy boy pictures by the end of that post. OUCH!!