Budden, most known for his treatment of the operas of Verdi, seems equally at home with Verdi’s fellow countryman. A brief biography gives way to in-depth analyses of all of Puccini’s operas. In the chapter on Madama Butterfly, Budden describes the opera’s creation, interprets the numerous musical motifs, and describes the storyline as one of “action that evolves steadily.” The audience is drawn into a 3-year period of Butterfly’s life, a span that begins with romance and ends in grief.
Would you sacrifice everything for love, a love that ultimately ends in betrayal? Pittsburgh Opera opens its 2018-2019 season with Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. I have to admit that I have a love-hate relationship with this opera. I do not like the character of Pinkerton, the brash American naval officer who promises love to Cio-Cio San, but does not truly share the deep feelings she has for him. I also struggle at times with Puccini’s vision of Japanese culture and its portrayal onstage. On the other hand, I cannot deny the magic of Puccini’s music. His gifts with melody and orchestral color sweep us up in this tragic romance. We truly feel the emotions of the characters.
Explore more about Madama Butterfly through the CD, DVD and book recommendations on this list. Maybe I will see you at the opera!
The author discusses the origins of the opera’s libretto, the real-life woman who inspired the character of Cho-Cho-San, and the influence of the Japanese aesthetic on turn of the twentieth century Western artists like Puccini.
Wilson explores the debates about Puccini as a composer. Was he an Italian nationalist or an international artist? Did he modernize opera or did he continue its traditions? The chapter about Madama Butterfly is titled, “A frame without a canvas: Madama Butterfly and the superficial.” The opera was a huge flop upon its premiere. Many critics believed that Puccini focused too much on style over substance. Wilson suggests that they were challenged by Puccini’s modern score – an interesting argument.
Puccini’s soaring melodies are in good hands (voices) with this classic pairing of Renata Tebaldi and Carlo Bergonzi.
Angela Gheroghiu and Jonas Kaufmann bring star power as Cio-Cio San and Pinkerton.
Mirella Freni and Placido Domingo are at the height of their vocal powers. Many opera buffs have this production at the top of their lists.
Anthony Minghella’s production from the Metropolitan Opera received raves upon its debut. Patricia Racette and Marcello Giordano portray the tragic lovers. Maria Zifchak and Dwayne Croft are excellent in their supporting roles of Suzuki and Sharpless.
This production from Hamburg State Opera features costumes by fashion designer Christian Lacroix and showcases the powerful soprano, Alexia Voulgaridou.