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What Happened to Cio-Cio-San's Son after 'Madama Butterfly'?

by Frances Kai-Hwa Wang /
Playwright Hiro Kanagawa and composer David MacIntyre of new opera "Tom Pinkerton: The Ballad of Butterfly's Son,” takes place 20 years after Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly.” Courtesy of Hiro Kanagawa /

What ever happened to Cio-Cio-San’s son after the dramatic end of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly”? Canadian actor and playwright Hiro Kanagawa and composer David MacIntyre take on this question with a new full-length musical drama, “Tom Pinkerton: The Ballad of Butterfly’s Son,” which the two are currently crowdfunding.

“Puccini's ‘Madama Butterfly’ is one of the most beloved and widely-produced operas of all time,” playwright Hiro Kanagawa told NBC News. “And on a purely narrative level, ‘Tom Pinkerton’ seeks to continue the story and answer the age-old question: what happens to Cio-Cio's baby boy after he's taken away to America?”

"Tom Pinkerton," which was short-listed for the Playwrights Guild of Canada's New Musical Award and workshopped at the In Tune Conference of New Musicals in Vancouver, takes place 20 years after the conclusion of "Madama Butterfly." Cio-Cio-San's son, now grown and renamed Tom, returns to Nagasaki to find himself and the mother he never knew. Combining opera with musical theater and characters from Puccini’s opera with new characters, “Tom Pinkerton” reflects on Puccini’s Orientalist fantasy and continues the story with a modern perspective on Japan’s history and the experience of multiracial Japanese Canadians and Americans, Kanagawa says.

“On a deeper cultural level, productions of ‘Butterfly’ are constantly reminding us and reinforcing archaic but persistent Orientalist tropes,” Kanagawa said. “I do see ‘Tom Pinkerton’ as a kind of antidote. But more than just a critique of ‘Butterfly,’ I also see it as a reinterpretation of the ‘Butterfly’ universe, an opportunity to enter into a dialog with the past and redefine our ideas of Asia and Asian-ness."

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