Minnesota Opera celebrates its upcoming 'Madame Butterfly' with Cio-Cio Sassy


Listening to Cio-Cio San, fall in love all over again, quips Weezer's Rivers Cuomo on the band's 1996 single "El Scorcho," which refers to the beloved opera Madame Butterfly. The convergence of theatrical opera and contemporary pop isn't as far-fetched as one would think, and the Minnesota Opera will demonstrate this at its Cio-Cio Sassy celebration.

The Minnesota Opera's Tempo program invites young professionals in their 20s and 30s to be a part of the Twin Cities arts scene. At the opening night of each production, neophytes and those with seasoned ears alike get together for special behind-the-scenes access, meeting with singers and chatting with composers.

For Minnesota Opera's upcoming production of Madame Butterfly, Tempo is hosting Cio-Cio Sassy, a night of fashion and art inspired by the iconic play.

[jump] Madame Butterfly, which is one of the most performed operas in the world, has tugged at heartstrings for generations. Set at the turn of the 20th century in Japan, young Cio-Cio San marries an American naval officer named Pinkerton. At 15 years of age, Cio-Cio converts to Christianity and forsakes her family's wishes. Yet it's not enough to keep Pinkerton around. He leaves for the United States shortly after their marriage, and Cio-Cio is faced with raising their child on her own. She fervently waits for Pinkerton to return.

The Cio-Cio Sassy event will be held at Seven Sushi Ultralounge and Skybar, and will feature a fashion show, live manga-style portrait drawing, Japanese paper demonstrations, and several performances by the Madame Butterfly cast. Hopefully, the party will get audiences excited for the April 14 opening.

German-born stylist Grant Whittaker will curate the fashion show, which features pieces from a dozen talents. "The show consists of local designers with all-new looks created for the event to match the theme," he says. "Each designer gets one original look."


The runway show will have models sauntering down the catwalk in one-of-a-kind outfits by Emma Berg, Russell Bourrienne, Samantha R. Crossland, Caroline Hayden, Anna Lee, Kerry Riley, Tim & Thom, and others.

As a big fan of the opera, Whittaker plans imbue Seven with the play's subtle Asian beauty. "I am adapting the small space to allow for more room, development, and character," he says. "The models will cascade slowly to Asian house music and use the space with dramatic flair."

Whittaker honed his skills in Germany before crossing the pond, relocating to Minneapolis where he helps bring life to the annual Fashion Ball. "I was a dancer, and was in a lot of product, fashion, and commercial shoots and shows," he says. "Clients started approaching me about my own style, and this got the ball rolling."

As a passionate advocate for the arts, Whittaker urges everyone to stop by Cio-Cio Sassy. "So much funding has been cut in the last couple of years, and Tempo is youth supporting the arts," he says. "Come support the future of the opera."


Cio-Cio Sassy

8-10 p.m. Friday, March 30

Seven Sushi Ultralounge & Skybar

700 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis