BUTTERFLY Re-Imagines MADAME BUTTERFLY in New York City; Alicia Keys May Star

     December 12, 2010

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Producer Sidney Kimmell (Adventureland) is developing Butterfly, a re-imagining of the Giacomo Puccini opera Madame Butterfly.  The project is reportedly moving forward with Alicia Keys in mind for the lead role.

The three-act opera, centered around the tragic love affair between a young Japanese girl and an American sailor, first premiered in 1904.  Madame Butterfly has seen a number of screen adaptations since then, the most recent in 1995.  Hit the jump for a clip and synopsis from that film.

There’s a reason I write about movies, and not operas.  But this is beautiful.

Pajiba‘s report is scant on details, so I’m trying to figure out exactly how this plot will translate modern New York City.  The story seems so culturally specific, with deep roots in the time period.  My hope is that they change virtually nothing — that Butterfly will be pure melodrama, set to music.

In the 19th century, an American sailor named Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton  arrives in Japan and meets a 15-year-old girl named Cio-Cio-San, whom he calls Butterfly. Butterfly falls in love with Pinkerton, but he regards their romance as a temporary fling and blithely asks for her hand even though he has no intention of bringing her with him when he returns to the States. Blinded by love, Butterfly marries Pinkerton, even though it means turning her back on her family and her faith, and to the surprise of few aside from herself, he soon leaves her behind.

Three years later, Butterfly has a child whom Pinkerton fathered shortly before his departure, and the heart-broken woman lives for the day that he returns, though her friends give her little hope that this will ever happen. One day, Pinkerton does indeed return — with his American wife Kate in tow, and with the intention of taking possession of his child and bringing him back to the United States, leaving Butterfly entirely alone. [Fandango]

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