MADAMA BUTTERFLY // Giacomo Puccini
Opera in 3 acts
Sung in Italian.
Recorded June 2017
From Teatro Real, Madrid
A temporary wife was a widespread practice in Japan at the end of the 19th century. The West - with the United States leading - had established diplomatic and commercial relations with the country in the mid-century and the fascination with the birthplace of geishas spread like wildfire. The influence of a distant (and imaginary) Orient would take form in works by a variety of European and North American artists that continued well into the 20th century. In this way, Butterfly is a crass embodiment of the conflict between two irreconcilable civilizations, one which dominates the other. A man of a subtle theatrical spirit, Puccini portrayed brilliantly the fragility of a geisha in love who naively believed the dashing North American marine official also loved her. The musical score evokes agreeably harmonized traditional Japanese melodies. In spite of the fiasco of the debut of Madama Butterfly in Milan, the composer stood fast in his determination to make a success of what he considered his most sincere and expressive work. The passing of time has proved him right. Mario Gas places the story in a 1930s film studio. He narrates this moving drama from three simultaneous perspectives: the opera itself, the film being made of the opera, and its projection in black and white on a large screen.