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Thread: Madama Butterfly

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    Senior Member Edward Elgar's Avatar
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    Default Madama Butterfly

    This thread is hopefully for the disscussion of Puccini's Madama Butterfly.

    I'm going to see this opera on the 18th of October, and I was wondering if there's anything I should look or listen out for.

    Also, I'm interested to know the differences between classical and romantic opera. I went to see Don Giovanni and thought it was amazing! Will Butterfly be anything like?
    When all the paint has been dried, when all the stone has been carved, music shall remain, and we shall work with what remains.

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    Senior Member Chi_townPhilly's Avatar
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    Hello, Edoo... while I don't have anything to contribute re: Butterfly at this time, I'm currently awaiting an order of Puccini texts/libretti. I expect to receive them in a couple of days, and then read them shortly thereafter. Of course, I'll "audition" along with the notes. I'll be in touch soon.

    Related topic... is Butterfly a good "date" opera? They tried to make it so in "Fatal Attraction," but then you know the characters in that movie(!)
    The hardest knife ill us'd doth lose his edge. Shakespeare- Sonnet 95

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    Senior Member Chi_townPhilly's Avatar
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    O.K.: with about one week to spare, I coursed through Madama Butterfly, CD notes in one hand and libretto in the other. I deliberately avoided research beyond that point, so that some unvarnished, subjective initial impressions could be captured.

    Butterfly, perhaps Puccini's largest "canvas," was larger still at the time of its premiere, but was subsequently retooled (most significantly, it went to three acts from its original opening act and l...o...n...g second act)- an adjustment made after a fiasco opening performance (complete with spirited booing). It was successful upon adjustment, and has remained successful since.

    It's a painful story to observe, made more so by the realization that it's based on an actual episode. It originally appeared as a magazine-style short story, then was made into a play crafted by one of the leading lights turn-of-the-Century New York stagecraft, David Belasco. Puccini (whose artisitic juices are set flowing by nothing quite so much as a suicidal heroine) went into protracted negotiations with Belasco concerning rights to the story. (Why it was necessary for Puccini to do so, in light of the fact that the tale wasn't original with Belasco, either, my first flush of observation did not reveal.)

    B.F. Pinkerton enters firmly on the short list of opera's most uncongenial tenor leads (easily surpassing Don Giovanni and Tannhauser, and occupying a plane with Siegfried and the Duke of Mantua (Rigoletto). When asked if he actually loves Butterfly (a.k.a.: Cio-Cio-San) he replies (roughly translated) "it depends upon what the meaning of the word "love" is." Does that syntax sound familiar??

    The "hits," of course, are "Un bel di vedremo," the heart of the 2nd act, and the "Humming Chorus" towards the end of the same act. The former was at one time Puccini's single most famous aria (before Pavarotti circumnavigated the globe with "Nessun Dorma" from Turandot). It remains the most famous female aria in the Puccini canon, and maybe the most well-known soprano aria of the 20th century.
    The "Humming Chorus" joins Papageno's lock-lipped accompaniment in Mozart's Magic Flute as the most prominent music for >>hum<< Other than its artistry and "instrument" of choice, it has nothing in common with its famous forbear. Building tragedy is the feeling you get from its introduction.

    It is, in the end, tragic opera at its most tragic. You can't walk away from it saying (like you might with, say, Troavatore) pfah! that could never really happen... because, in a not entirely discernable way, it kind of did.

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    Senior Member Edward Elgar's Avatar
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    Thanks a lot Chi_town/Philly! I didn't know it was based on a true story - I suppose it makes the whole thing more poigniant, especially with the theme of integrating cultures (an issue very relevant in my country).
    When all the paint has been dried, when all the stone has been carved, music shall remain, and we shall work with what remains.

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    Senior Member Chi_townPhilly's Avatar
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    Naturally... curious to discover how the performance went... what impressions did you get from seeing it live?!

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    Senior Member Edward Elgar's Avatar
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    It was a performance by Opera North - an English company based in Yorkshire. Overall it was a really professional job with a superb Butterfly. The set was simplistic and beautiful and the orchestra - phenominal! Best opera yet!
    When all the paint has been dried, when all the stone has been carved, music shall remain, and we shall work with what remains.

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    Junior Member RicardoTheTexan's Avatar
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    That depends.

    Read my article on the Met's production of Butterfly, and weep (no joke).

    http://mightyniche.com/metorgy.html
    Ricardo is the author of Getting Opera - for real, a revolutionary audio course that turns the listener into an opera expert in less than three hours.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Edward Elgar View Post
    Thanks a lot Chi_town/Philly! I didn't know it was based on a true story - I suppose it makes the whole thing more poignant, especially with the theme of integrating cultures (an issue very relevant in my country).
    If you ever see this, are you still a opera lover?

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