|Written by||David Henry Hwang|
Renee and others
|Date premiered||March 20, 1988|
|Place premiered||Eugene O'Neill Theatre
New York City
|Subject||East/West cultural stereotypes|
|Setting||A Paris prison, 1988; recollections of Beijing and Paris|
The play premiered on Broadway at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on March 20, 1988, closing after 777 performances on January 27, 1990. It was directed by John Dexter with stars John Lithgow as Gallimard and BD Wong as Song Liling. David Dukes, Anthony Hopkins, Tony Randall, and John Rubinstein played Gallimard at various times during the original run. A highly unusual staging featuring Puccini's music and the Kazakh countertenor Erik Kurmangaliev in the title role was undertaken by Roman Viktyuk in Russia in 1990.
It is currently published by Plume and in an acting edition by Dramatists Play Service. An audio recording of the play was produced by L. A. Theatre Works, with Lithgow and Wong reprising their Broadway roles along with Margaret Cho.
The play was inspired by Giacomo Puccini's opera Madama Butterfly. The first act introduces the main character, Rene Gallimard, who is a civil servant attached to the French embassy in China. He falls in love with a beautiful Chinese opera diva, Song Liling, who is actually a man masquerading as a woman. In traditional Beijing opera, females were banned from the stage; all female roles (dan) were played by males.
Act two begins with Song coming to France and resuming the affair with Gallimard. They stay together for 20 years until the truth is revealed, and Gallimard is convicted of treason and imprisoned. Unable to face the fact that his "perfect woman" is actually a man, that has been posing as a woman for 20 years to be able to spy, he retreats deep within himself and his memories. The action of the play is depicted as his disordered, distorted recollection of the events surrounding their affair.
Awards and nominations
- Awards 
- 1988 Clarence Derwent Awards for Most Promising Male (Wong)
- 1988 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play
- 1988 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play (Wong)
- 1988 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Play (John Dexter)
- 1988 Tony Award for Best Play
- 1988 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play (Wong)
- 1988 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play (John Dexter)
- 1988 John Gassner Award
- 1988 Outer Critics Circle Award
- 1988 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Play (Lithgow)
- 1988 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Costume Design (Eiko Ishioka)
- 1988 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Set Design (Eiko Ishioka)
- 1988 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Play
- 1988 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play (Lithgow)
- 1988 Tony Award for Best Scenic Design (Eiko Ishioka)
- 1988 Tony Award for Best Costume Design (Eiko Ishioka)
- 1988 Tony Award for Best Lighting Design (Andy Phillips)
- 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Drama
- Rich, Frank (21 March 1988). "Review/Theater; 'M. Butterfly,' a Story Of a Strange Love, Conflict and Betrayal". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 March 2011.
- M. Butterfly at the Internet Broadway Database
- M. Butterfly at the Internet Movie Database
- Viktyuk's Russian version, excerpt 1
- Viktyuk's Russian version, excerpt 2