May 17, 2001 – Arthur Groos: “‘Like an Imprisoned Fly’: Madama Butterfly between East and West”

Thursday, May 17 | Oakes Mural Room | 4:00 PM


Arthur Groos is Professor of German Studies, Medieval Studies, and Music at Cornell University, where he has taught since 1973. Co-editor of Reading Opera (1988) and co-author of Giacomo Puccini: La Bohème (1986), his other books include Romancing the Grail: Genre, Science, and Quest in Wolfram’s Parzival (1995),and numerous articles on medieval literature, Goethe, Schiller, and German and Italian opera. Works in progress include a monograph on orientalism and Madama Butterfly and the Cambridge Opera Handbook on Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. He writes that his talk “is largely a decolonizing interpretation of Acts II-III of the opera, suggesting that Butterfly’s attempt to construct a western identity as Mrs. B. F. Pinkerton is doomed to failure because of western racial prejudices about the oriental other. It shows among other things that all those embarrassing moments in Act II are deliberate, and suggests through an analysis of Butterfly’s major numbers how the opera can be viewed as a tragedy of failed assimilation.”