Composers and their stage works 

M Butterfly

David Henry Hwang


Bored with his routine posting in Beijing, and awkward with women, René Gallimard, a French diplomat, is easy prey for the subtle, delicate charms of Song Li Ling, a Chinese opera star who personifies Gallimard's fantasy vision of submissive, exotic, oriental sexuality. He begins an affair with 'her' which lasts for 20 years during which time he passes on diplomatic secrets, an act which eventually brings about his downfall and eventual imprisonment.

Interspersed with scenes between the two lovers are others with Gallimard's wife and colleagues, which underscore the irony of Gallimard's delusion and its curious parallels with the events in Puccini's Madam Butterfly.

The combination of ritual and realism with theatricality leads us inexorably to the astonishing climax when Song Li Ling strips off his female attire and assumes his true masculinity - a revelation which the deluded Gallimard can neither credit nor accept - a revelation that drives him finally, and fatally, deep within the fantasy with which, over the years, he has held the truth at bay.