Madam Butterfly opera - Puccini (1904)
Madam Butterfly played by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and singers

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Madam Butterfly

Kind: Serious opera in two acts
Language: Italian
Location: Japan
Time: Turn of the 20th century
Hits: The Humming chorus, Un bel di vedremo, Bimba dagli occhi pieni di malia

An image from this opera in a production of the San Diego Opera houseIt is amazing to find out that three of the nowadays most popular operas were a complete failure on their opening night. "The Barber of Seville" and "La Traviata" were also scoffed at and scolded, but it seems "Madame Butterfly" had such a defeat on its premiere, that it is a wonder Puccini continued its presentation at all. The audience received the first arias with silence (and silence from an Italian crowd is a real slap on the face), later people began shouting the opera recycles of Puccini's successful "La Boheme", and finally - a constant series of calls and mockery from the audience. Nobody predicted this failure. Everyone involved in the production were convinced this would be another big hit of the gifted, successful composer. The stunned Puccini canceled the scheduled performances and paid a great deal of money for this cancellation. However, after three months of making changes and modifications in his "opera corpse", he launched it once again, this time conducted by the great Toscanini. This time it was a huge success - singers had to perform 5 of the arias a second time, as an encore. The composer even came up to the stage a few times, to the request of the audience that wished to pay him honors. From that day and ever since "Madame Butterfly" is considered one of the most popular operas in the repertory.

An image from this opera in a production of the San Diego Opera houseThe opera tells us about Lieutenant Pinkerton of the American navy, who indulged the proposal of a matchmaker, and pretended to marry Cho-cho San, also known as "Madame Butterfly". The story takes place, in the beautiful harbor-city of Nagasaki (45 years later, it will be destroyed by the second atomic bomb dropped on Japan in World War II). She takes the marriage seriously, and even cuts off her family and friends. When Cho-cho sees his ship arriving and as she instructs her maid to gather blossoms to greet him, she sings the most famous 'Humming Chorus'. But after finding out she was betrayed, the disappointed "Madame Butterfly" commits suicide by Hara-kiri, as customary in Japan. Lieutenant Pinkerton and his new wife take the child to the United States with them.

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