In the Wings

Backstage glimpses with Boston Lyric Opera

Pucciniana #10

Nov 5, 2012 6:22:00 PM
By BLO Staff

Two out of our five performances of Madama Butterfly are done and with just three more to go (11/7, 11/9, and a matinee on 11/11) I thought that this Pucciniana should be dedicated to the mystery of the Geisha. - Amanda Villegas, Marketing and Communications Manager

Over the centuries there have been countless books and movies written on the allure of the Geisha. lists 1,188 books alone. But to Western society there is still so much confusion surrounding these Japanese cultural icons. It is a common misconception that the geisha was a prostitute. To the contrary, Wikipedia gives us this definition: Geisha (芸者?), geiko (芸子) or geigi (芸妓)
are traditional Japanese female entertainers who act as hostesses and
whose skills include performing various Japanese arts such as classical
music, dance and games. answers the prostitute question:

Are Maiko and Geisha prostitutes?

Most certainly not! A Maiko and Geisha's profession is based on
preserving the traditional arts such as dance, singing and music
and entertaining in a non-sexual manner.

The confusion as to whether Geisha are prostitutes or not seems
to have stemmed both from the close proximity Geisha had to courtesans
in the Edo era and the fact that they did technically originate
from the red light districts. The main culprit though appears to
be from post World War II occupation by U.S. service men.

Many U.S. service came home from Japan with wild and raunchy stories
of "Gee-sha Girls" whom, for most of the part where not
in fact real Geisha, but rather, ordinary Japanese women or prostitutes
masquerading or calling themselves "Geisha", largely because it
was easiest for the service men to understand.

Of course, the large majority of service men did not know the difference,
and despite the survival of the Geisha districts after the enforcement
of the prostitution laws in 1957 and the subsequent closure of the
red light districts, the misconception has haunted the flower and
willow world ever since.

More interesting links on the Geisha:

One of my favorite history sites, History Undressed has a great article on the history of the Geisha. Read it here!

Japan-Zone brings us an interesting perspective on the history of the Geisha and some personal anecdote! "I recently had the pleasure of meeting a woman who was once the No.1 geisha in Japan. She's a wonderful
lady, funny, warm and kind. She was once a favorite of my wife's grandfather who, with his many
business and social connections, helped her find sponsors and make her name..."

Japan Guide has information on how to attend a Geisha dinner when in Japan!

"An enduring symbol of fashion and tradition embodying the grace of the
Japanese people. Curiosity and misunderstanding face most gaijin about
geisha, women in Japan and paid entertainment"
Geisha of Japan has probably everything you've ever wanted to know about the Geisha history, lifestyle, and even hairstyles!


In my research I discovered that there are a TON of sushi restaurants named Geisha! Who knew?

Topics: Amanda Villegas, Butterfly, Geisha, Japan, Japanese, Madama Butterfly, madame butterfly, Puccini

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