Sadayakko: The Real Madame Butterfly

February 17, 2004
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Lecture past event

Sadayakko (1871-1946) was Japan’s first international superstar. From San Francisco to Paris and St. Petersburg, audiences thrilled to her mesmeric acting and exquisite dancing. She performed for the American president, for Edward Prince of Wales in London and Emperor Franz Josef in Vienna and dined with Tsar Nikolai II in St Petersburg. Picasso painted her, Gide swooned over her and Rodin admired her. In 1902, Puccini was working on his opera, Madame Butterfly in Milan. He had the plot but he had yet to meet a real live flesh and blood Japanese woman. Then, Sadayakko arrived in Milan with her troupe of traveling actors and Puccini reshaped his opera, which premiered exactly 100 years ago on February 17, 1904, along the lines of the Japanese and took Sadayakko as his model for Cho-Cho-San.

Drawing from her recent book Madame Sadayakko: The Geisha Who Bewitched the West, Lesley Downer tells Sadayakko’s story and also attempts to recreate some of the excitement of that beguiling era when Japan and the West were meeting each other for the first time.  With an introduction by Cori Ellison, Dramaturg, New York City Opera. 

Followed by a reception and booksigning.

Tickets: $10; Japan Society members & seniors $8; students $5.

Presented as part of U.S.-Japan 150 Years, a year-long celebration commemorating the 150th anniversary of U.S.-Japan relations.

  • Tuesday, February 17, 2004
  • 6:30 pm