M. Butterfly

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M. Butterfly
Written byDavid Henry Hwang
CharactersRene Gallimard
Song Liling
Marc
Helga
M. Toulon
Comrade Chin
Renee and others
Date premieredMarch 20, 1988
Place premieredEugene O'Neill Theatre
New York City
Original languageEnglish
SubjectEast/West cultural stereotypes
GenreDrama
SettingA Paris prison, 1988; recollections of Beijing and Paris
IBDB profile
 
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M. Butterfly
Written byDavid Henry Hwang
CharactersRene Gallimard
Song Liling
Marc
Helga
M. Toulon
Comrade Chin
Renee and others
Date premieredMarch 20, 1988
Place premieredEugene O'Neill Theatre
New York City
Original languageEnglish
SubjectEast/West cultural stereotypes
GenreDrama
SettingA Paris prison, 1988; recollections of Beijing and Paris
IBDB profile

M. Butterfly is a 1988 play by David Henry Hwang loosely based on the relationship between French diplomat Bernard Boursicot and Shi Pei Pu, a male Peking opera singer.

The play premiered on Broadway at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on March 20, 1988, closing after 777 performances on January 27, 1990.[1] It was directed by John Dexter with stars John Lithgow as Gallimard and BD Wong as Song Liling. David Dukes, Anthony Hopkins, Tony Randall, and John Rubinstein played Gallimard at various times during the original run.[2] A highly unusual staging featuring Puccini's music and the Kazakh countertenor Erik Kurmangaliev in the title role was undertaken by Roman Viktyuk in Russia in 1990.[3]

It is currently published by Plume and in an acting edition by Dramatists Play Service.[4] An audio recording of the play was produced by L. A. Theatre Works, with Lithgow and Wong reprising their Broadway roles along with Margaret Cho.[5]

Plot[edit]

The play was inspired by Giacomo Puccini's opera Madama Butterfly. The first act introduces the main character, Rene Gallimard, who is a civil servant attached to the French embassy in China. He falls in love with a beautiful Chinese opera diva, Song Liling, who is actually a man masquerading as a woman. In traditional Beijing opera, females were banned from the stage; all female roles (dan) were played by males.

Act two begins with Song coming to France and resuming the affair with Gallimard. They stay together for 20 years until the truth is revealed, and Gallimard is convicted of treason and imprisoned. Unable to face the fact that his "perfect woman" is actually a man, that has been posing as a woman for 20 years to be able to spy, he retreats deep within himself and his memories. The action of the play is depicted as his disordered, distorted recollection of the events surrounding their affair.

The third act portrays Gallimard committing seppuku (also known as harakiri, ritual Japanese suicide through self-disembowelment) while Song watches and smokes a cigarette.

Film adaptation[edit]

Hwang adapted the play for a 1993 film directed by David Cronenberg with Jeremy Irons and John Lone in the leading roles.[6]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Awards [7]
Nominations

References[edit]

External links[edit]