M. Butterfly tells the story of a French diplomat posted in China, Rene Gallimard, who is brought to ruin and eventually convicted for espionage after a twenty-year affair with a Beijing Opera diva. The diva, citing her Chinese modesty, manages to never appear naked in front of Gallimard. Thus, not only had Gallimard failed to recognize that this lover was a spy; he'd also failed to recognize that "she" was a he. The singer spies on Gallimard for the Chinese government, using Gallimard's own fantasies of submissive oriental femininity to deceive and manipulate him. The play is set in Beijing and Paris.