It may surprise you to know that one of the sell-out shows here in Manhattan depicts the US military as providing a safe-haven with official sanction for men looking to procure sex with underage girls in developing countries.
The same show displays the US consular services in these developing countries providing explicit assistance in the said procurement, and also conniving in the forced international adoption of the children resulting from such unions.
Surely this is blatant anti-American propaganda.
Well, in fact no-one raises an eyebrow, because the show in question is Puccini's Madama Butterfly, currently on at the Met, from where I have just returned. It would be interesting to speculate what the reaction to Butterfly would be, however, were it to be composed today.
As it is, it is a veritable warhorse of the operatic repertoire, guaranteed to get a full house. The Met production is, as usual, extremely traditional, with pretty sets, lovely costumes, and zero social comment. What was disappointing tonight was the more lacklustre nature of the singing. While Vassily Grello's Sharpless was spot on, Roberto Aronica's Pinkerton was simply competent, and the American soprano Kallen Esperian in the title role seemed out of her depth. The high notes clearly put her under considerable strain, so much so that she failed even to attempt one of them. This is not what I have come to expect at the Met.
It takes a hard heart not to be moved by Butterfly, but tonight's performance was, I fear, if not unmoving, then at least swiftly forgotten.