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Monday, March 4, 2024

Teen’s View of Opera – ‘Madama Butterfly’ returning to Lyric in January

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Next month, Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly” returns to Chicago’s Lyric Opera with its second cast headlined by soprano Pat Racette, who last sang Butterfly at the Lyric in 2009. Butterfly is undoubtedly a repertoire favorite; Operabase reports that it is the 7th most commonly performed opera worldwide, while a 2010-2011 Opera America survey stated that Butterfly was the third most frequently performed work in North America. Given the opera’s wide acclaim, its ability to stir controversy, both in the past and present, is surprising.

Ried_em“Madama Butterfly’s” 1904 Milan premiere at La Scala was a failure. Although Puccini felt unusually confident in the success of this opera, the opening night audience booed throughout. They screamed “Boheme!” to criticize Puccini’s “recycling” of musical fragments from his previous work and mocked details – from the lead soprano’s ill-fitted kimono to bird whistles utilized during the famous Intermezzo, prompting the excited audience to contribute their own bird chirps in mockery.

Modern criticism for Butterfly comes from a very different source. Asian Studies scholars now analyze the ways in which Puccini’s work represents an inaccurate, exotic view of eastern culture. Examples include Puccini’s freely mixing Shinto and Buddhist religious practices, combining elements of Chinese and Japanese culture, and using a generic pentatonic scale to create a foreign ambience without making full use of actual Japanese musical manuscripts which he acquired.

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However, Butterfly endures as one of the most iconic operas in the repertoire. Some opera fans may celebrate the 155th anniversary of Puccini’s birth on Dec. 22 by planning a trip to the Lyric next month.

Thanks to the generosity of Fathom Events, PN is giving away a pair of tickets to both the live (11:55AM, Dec. 14) and the encore (6:30PM, Dec. 18) broadcasts of Verdi’s Falstaff at the Regal Cantera 17 in Warrenville.

To enter to win tickets, please email emilyriederer@gmail.com with your name and address.

For a complete schedule of the Met: Live in HD season and to find a theater near you, visit www.FathomEvents.com.

 

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Emily Riederer
Emily Riederer
Emily Riederer is a 2012 graduate of Naperville North High School.

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