Madame Butterfly – Never to be Missed

Categories: Do As The Locals Do, Featured, Music Diva
Contributing Diva:

Madame Butterfly.

Never miss the chance to experience this opera, which debuted in Italy, 1904, and at the NY Metropolitan Opera, 1907.

One of composer Giacomo Puccini’s masterpieces, it will be presented in concert with the 98 piece Pacific Symphony Orchestra, with conductor Carl St. Clair in his 30th season with the famed group. Be there. Be delighted.

Having seen previous opera concert productions of “Aida” and “La Boheme” at this venue, it can be said this is a superior opera experience. A distilled operatic presentation where the genius of the composer and librettists, in this case, Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, who also wrote Puccini’s “Tosca” and “La Boheme”, shine.

 One realizes elaborate scenery and costumes, though enjoyable, are not necessary. Not when Puccini’s melting arias, sung by young, handsome actors, are served up. These three operas are the most popular with performances worldwide.

Madame Butterfly is a love story. At least on the part of the young Japanese girl who marries an American naval officer,

Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton, in Nagasaki, Japan. It should be remembered Japan had been closed to the West until U.S.

Commodore Matthew Perry’s four ships sailed into Tokyo Bay, July 8, 1853, seeking to re-open trade between Japan and the West.

It didn’t take long after that event for the world to become enthralled with all things Japanese. For example, French painter Claude Monet’s yellow dining room was decorated with Japanese art. And the magazine story of a geisha girl’s romance, in 18 pages in Century Magazine, byAmerican lawyer John Luther Long, fired the interest of the world. His work based upon his sister’s tales of geisha girls when she and her missionary husband lived in Japan were vivid. No doubt Long knew of Pierre Loti’s 1887 novel Madame Chysantheme, which helped turn the story into a play produced by David Belasco, well-known American theatrical personality.

Puccini saw the Belasco Madame Butterfly play in London in 1900 and thought it might be good for his next opera. His “Tosca” had opened in 1900 and he was searching for a new subject.  

Butterfly, the geisha’s name, is a simple story, without much of a plot. But oh, the musici! The great Butterfly aria, “Un Bel Di” – One Fine Day – is familiar even to those who never set foot in an opera house. It is said people came out of Puccini’s operas already humming his tunes.

Puccini was a well-trained musician. His mother wrote to the queen of Italy to secure a place for her fatherless son at the music conservatory. He got it. In addition to composing he also orchestrated his work. He incorporated various Japanese music into Butterfly, including a bit from “The Mikado” by Gilbert and Sullivan.

The opera opens with Pinkerton arranging a 999-year lease on a house for himself and his teenage Japanese bride, Cio-Cio San. She is madly in love with him going so far as to convert to his Christian religion and adopting respect for America. For his part he is simply interested in the living arrangement. It is a sad story. But memorable.

It should be on every person’s “bucket list”. Here’s where to see it with a lecture by Alan Chapman at 7 p.m. – worth arriving early.

Cast includes: Yunah Lee as Cio-Cio San; John Pickel as Pinkerton; Sabina Kim as Suzuki, the maid and Luis Ledesma as Sharpless, American Consul.

Madame Butterfly – Feb. 21, 23, 26  8 p.m.

                   Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall

                  Costa Mesa, CA

                  Box office – weekdays only 714-755-5799; PacificSymphony.org

                 Tickets start at $30.00

Angela Rocco DeCarlo covered entertainment, culture and travel for The Chicago Tribune, Las Vegas Review Journal and Disney Magazine. She served as opera docent for 15 years with the late Opera Pacific, Orange County, CA. 

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