Quote of the Day

more Quotes

03 May 2010

unexpected joys

i'm not a huge fan of opera because i'm fond of realistic theater and i've always found all that theatricality a fortress against realism. also, the elements it incorporates are all big. big acting, big costumes, big scenery. so, when my friend viviana proposed me a night at the opera, i thought 'oh please no, not another opera!'. but since she insisted so much, i decided to give the madame butterfly a chance. and so on friday night, i fell in love with everything! 

it wasn't my first time, i had already enjoyed other pieces. still, i had never felt the magic, the supreme seduction of it all. while being there, i forgot the uncomfortable gods in the upper circle of the theater, the unnecessary airconditioning and the neighbour's annoying caughing. there i was, hypnotized by butterfly's drama. and loving every minute of it.

(source) one of the first posters of the opera

i don't know if it was for the resplendet soprano, the melodies, the visual attractive or for the tragic story of innocence betrayed. it's hard not to develop an emotional attachment to this besotted teen who leaps blindly into marriage and ends up taking her own life. the story is common and still actual, because women never stop being seduced and then abandoned. pinkerton, an american navy officer, plays insensibly with cio-cio-san's love. the arrangement  (both bride and house are leased for 999 years, evocable with one month notice) is  temporary in pinkerton's eyes, but for butterfly it's real. she renounces her faith, family and settles into life with this guy, with whom she also has a child.

then pinkerton goes back to america, and butterfly remains alone, isolated in her world and her pain with the choice she has made, waiting patiently for him to come back.  he gets back in the end, after 3 long years, but with his american wife kate, and only to take the child back to the united states. this breaks butterfly's heart. she gives up her son to pinkerton and kate in order for him to be happy, so that he'll be raised in a society in which he'll be accepted. because in japan, he's ostracized the way she is. the choice is painful and her pain is so great that in the end butterfly kills herself.

and while she commits suicide, after a dramatic farewell to her son, you can't stop wishing pinkerton to feel unhappy out of remorse for the rest of his life, the minimum he deserves after all the fuss. probably he got back to take the kid because he couldn't have any with kate. just my personal  suspicion here. i honestly can't see why this philandering would have gotten back otherwise. he was also a precursor pedophile. cio-cio-san was 15 when he married her,  so if we look at the tale from a modern perspective, he takes a break in nagasaki only to have fun with a japanese teenager.

what a freak, huh?

the popular myth says that madame butterfly was the wife of a scottish diplomat in japan, while it's known that puccini was inspired by the memoirs of a missionary in japan who told her brother the story of a girl forsaken by a foreign sailor and her sad death. whaetever, these are all stories about asian stereotypes of doll-like women who have been eroticized and exocitized as products of the western imagination. that's why japaneses never appreciated the glance at the customs and habits of their geishas and this opera dind't have the same popularity of the west. 

the role of butterfly is vocally extremely demanding and you don't need to be an expert to know that it requires a soprano with tremendous techniques. there are lots of big emotional moments, where they have to sing very demanding lines. lots of sopranos have starred as cio-cio-san during the years. here're the most famous ones: 

renata scotto. she was the first to perform this role in the 1950's (source)

licia albanese, the soprano who sang more performances as butterfly than any other in history at the metropolitan opera between 1940 and 1966 (via wikipedia).

and then there's mika mori, who does justice to the role  as an asian soprano. here she is in one of the biggest emotional moments, when cio-cio-san explains to suzuki, her maid, how her hopes  and love for pinkerton, will never die. this aria is very famous and it's called un bel dì vedremo (one beautiful day we'll see)

One good day, we will see 
Arising a strand of smoke
Over the far horizon on the sea 
And then the ship appears
And then the ship is white 
It enters into the port, it rumbles its salute.
Do you see it? He is coming!
I don't go down to meet him, not I. 
I stay upon the edge of the hill
And I wait a long time
but I do not grow weary of the long wait.
And leaving from the crowded city, 
A man, a little speck
Climbing the hill. 
Who is it? Who is it?
And as he arrives
What will he say? What will he say?
He will call Butterfly from the distance 
I without answering
Stay hidden A little to tease him,
A little as to not die.
At the first meeting, 
And then a little troubled
He will call, he will call 
"Little one, dear wife 
Blossom of orange"
The names he called me at his last coming.
All this will happen,
I promise you this 
Hold back your fears -
I with secure faith wait for him (extract).

puccini shows a great understanding of how women think and feel. he loved women. he was not only a great composer but also a great lover, and despite his numerous affairs, he loved his wife very much. his heroines are always fighting for something. they are intense, passionate, strong. madame butterfly fights for her love. i had this opinion of her as a weak victim, a love-sick geisha in the hands of a westerner. on the contrary, she's an incredible spirit and strenght, she knows what she wants, alias not getting back to the strict rules of japanese society, and she's a fierce and devoted mother. she sacrifices her life for her baby and kills herself with courage, like a man. on the other hand, pinkerton is a coward, who can't even face telling the truth to butterfly and sends the consul to explain it all.

italian composer giacomo puccini (1858-1924) credit

i definitely loved my night out then. and if this unexpected passions are born like this, let them be! it's never too late to pick them up, isn't it? sometimes we just don't like something because we aren't familiar with it. others, prejudges play a big part. we only have to keep going. 


  1. The part you chose is BEAUTIFUL - I got goosebumps listening to it! This post is BEAUTIFUL.

  2. you get goosebumps listening ... imagine the double emotion live! :)


Hi! Thanks for stopping by, your opinion counts! Feel free to express yourself xxx

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...