Historian calls Welsh National Opera ‘woke’ for exploring themes of colonialism in Madam Butterfly
A historian has called the Welsh National Opera “woke” for exploring themes of slavery and colonialism in Madam Butterfly.
The company based in Cardiff will run a lecture Prof Priyamvada Gopal of the University of Cambridge alongside the opera to discuss issues around “imperialism” raised by the opera.
Dr Zareer Masani, an Indian author and historian of the British Empire, has however criticised the move, telling the Telegraph that it is “astonishing that even opera has become an excuse for a swipe at the British Empire”.
“True, the American abandons his pregnant Japanese lover, forgets her and returns with his American wife to adopt her child – a tragic clash of cultures – but hardly the result of imperialism, since Japan was never colonised.
“Welsh National Opera needs to grow up and escape this wokedom.”
The WNO’s notes on the talk, published in The Telegraph, note that despite having no direct link with Britain, “Madam Butterfly was premiered at the height of the British Empire”.
The opera tells the tragic story of 15 year old Cio Cio San, a young Japanese girl who falls in love with American naval officer Pinkerton.
“Many books continue to be published today about empire and its lasting effect, however for some it is only recently that we have started investigating independently what Britain’s role and impact in the world has been in the wake of Black Lives Matter,” the WNO said.
“How many of us have, in fact, benefitted from formal education about the British Empire?
“In this discussion, we consider how the UK is still shaped by its past and which stories of the empire are common knowledge and have been reflected on our stages and from whose perspective.
“Are there some tales that still need to come to light and be shared?”
All four talks will be held online from September 14 to 21, with the WNO’s tour of Madam Butterfly beginning in Cardiff on September 26.