Libretto: Sushree Peacock, by Mira Carroll (first year, undeclared)
Mira’s adaptation of the opera Madama Butterfly invests the title character with the sort of narrative agency that Puccini’s Butterfly never had. In Sushree Peacock, Maya falls in love with William Powers, and, as is often the case in opera, her love becomes a kind of obsession, motivating her to convert from Hinduism to Christianity. But Maya lives in a matrilineal society, where her daughter, Priya (the counterpart to Cio-Cio-san’s son) will inherit all she has. And while Maya is the “peacock” of the title—a majestic bird meant to contrast with the butterfly’s delicacy—the only character who attempts to call her that (and thus reduce her to an inhuman creature) is Powers. The relationship between Maya and Sami is modeled on the idealized servant-mistress friendship of Susanna and the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro, which transgresses the social norms that might otherwise prevent women of different classes from sharing an emotional bond. Mira adheres to a number of operatic conventions, including characters of particular “types,” poetic texts with internal repetitions, and clear structural distinctions between plot-moving recitatives and reflective arias. But the final scene is a powerful rebuttal to Butterfly’s shame-driven seppuku, and to dramatic opera’s broader tendency to kill its female leads.
Madama Butterfly, Giacomo Puccini, Sushree Peacock, gender roles
Dramatic Literature, Criticism and Theory
Carroll, MIra, "Libretto: Sushree Peacock" (2016). Music 134: Songbirds and Sirens. 3.