Alison Cleary



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Alison Cleary, MUS 303: Music History 2
Faculty Mentor: Professor Carolyn Guzski, Music

My project focuses on Italian composer Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) and his famous opera Madama Butterfly. The opera embodies the concept of exoticism, particularly in its depiction of Japanese culture. I analyze selections from Madama Butterfly in order to reveal its composer’s efforts to transmit a sense of Asian-influenced stylistic features. To do so, I examine the opera’s melodies, harmonies, and orchestration, and show harmonic and melodic themes that reference Japanese cultural influences with examples from the opera’s musical score. In addition, I look more deeply into the concept of artistic exoticism as viewed by cultural scholars. I shall compare and connect the exoticism of Butterfly to other works of Puccini, as well as to those of previous composers in music history. Finally, I discuss the composer’s background through biographical sources, including his nineteenth-century musical influences and the era's fascination with the "exotic" in art. I will explain what originally inspired Puccini to adapt the Madama Butterfly story for the lyric stage, as well as the impact the opera had after its premiere and beyond.

Publication Date



Arts and Humanities

East Meets West: Exoticism in Puccini's Madama Butterfly
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