GALLIMARD: The ending is pitiful. Pinkerton, in an act of great courage, stays home and sends his American wife to pick up Butterfly’s child. The truth, long deferred, has come up to her door.
Song, playing Butterfly, sings the lines from the opera in her own voice—which, though not classical, should be decent.
SONG: “Con onor muore/ chi non puo serbar/ vita con onore.”
GALLIMARD (simultaneously): “Death with honor/ Is better than life/ Life with dishonor.”
The stage is illuminated; we are now completely within an elegant diplomat’s residence. Song proceeds to play out an abbreviated death scene. Everyone in the room applauds. Song, shyly, takes her bows. Others in the room rush to congratulate her. Gallimard remains with us.
GALLIMARD: They say in opera the voice is everything. That’s probably why I’d never before enjoyed opera. Here … here was a Butterfly with little or no voice—but she had the grace, the delicacy … I believed this girl. I believed her suffering. I wanted to take her in my arms—so delicate, even I could protect her, take her home, pamper her until she smiled.
Over the course of the preceding speech, Song has broken from the upstage crowd and moved directly upstage of Gallimard.
SONG: Excuse me. Monsieur …?
Gallimard turns upstage, shocked.
GALLIMARD: Oh! Gallimard. Mademoiselle …? A beautiful …
SONG: Song Liling.
GALLIMARD: A beautiful performance.
SONG: Oh, please.
GALLIMARD: I usually—
SONG: YOU make me blush. I’m no opera singer at all.
GALLIMARD: I usually don’t like Butterfly.
SONG: I can’t blame you in the least.
GALLIMARD: I mean, the story—
GALLIMARD: I like the story, but … what?
SONG: Oh, you like it?
GALLIMARD: I … what I mean is, I’ve always seen it played by huge women in so much bad makeup.
SONG: Bad makeup is not unique to the West.
GALLIMARD: But, who can believe them?
SONG: And you believe me?
GALLIMARD: Absolutely. You were utterly convincing. It’s the first time—
SONG: Convincing? As a Japanese woman? The Japanese used hundreds of our people for medical experiments during the war, you know. But I gather such an irony is lost on you.
GALLIMARD: NO! I was about to say, it’s the first time I’ve seen the beauty of the story.
GALLIMARD: Of her death. It’s a … a pure sacrifice. He’s unworthy, but what can she do? She loves him … so much. It’s a very beautiful story.
SONG: Well, yes, to a Westerner.
GALLIMARD: Excuse me?
SONG: It’s one of your favorite fantasies, isn’t it? The submissive Oriental woman and the cruel white man.
GALLIMARD: Well, I didn’t quite mean …
SONG: Consider it this way: what would you say if a blonde homecoming queen fell in love with a short Japanese businessman? He treats her cruelly, then goes home for three years, during which time she prays to his picture and turns down marriage from a young Kennedy. Then, when she learns he has remarried, she kills herself. Now, I believe you would consider this girl to be a deranged idiot, correct? But because it’s an Oriental who kills herself for a Westerner—ah!—you find it beautiful.
GALLIMARD: Yes … well … I see your point …
SONG: I will never do Butterfly again, Monsieur Gallimard. If you wish to see some real theatre, come to the Peking Opera sometime. Expand your mind.
Song walks offstage.
GALLIMARD (to us): So much for protecting her in my big Western arms.