Tuesday, September 06, 2011

PBS airs Met's 2009 "Madame Butterfly"; will be reperformed this season

Tonight some PBS stations aired the Anthony Minghella production of Giacomo Puccin’s “Madame Butterfly” at the Metropolitan Opera in 2009.  The best link is here. The production will be repeated in December 2011
The Met version is the three act version, directly by Gary Halvorsk. Patricia Racette sings the lead role.

The plot (story by John Luther Long) may seem disturbing if put in a modern context.  A US Naval officer has engaged to marry a very young Japanese bride (it wouldn’t be legal today) but to divorce her when he finds an American wife.  The story hardly encourages “family values”, or even stable marriages between equal adults, capable of raising children to adulthood. 

The production used a mannequin for the child, which looked a bit odd, especially in the tragic last scene where the princess puts a knife at her own throat.

The music, like most Puccini, mixes post Strauss-Mahler schmaltz with some whole-tone effects more common in French music. There is one major soaring theme that revolves around a few notes.

At the tragic end, the music seems ready to crash on B-minor octaves (almost like Tchaikovsky in "Black Swan")  when instead it leaves us dangling on a non-tonic chord.  I went to the Casio piano and played one loud B octave to conclude.  (Remember the note B in Wozzeck?) 

Sorry, the story doesn't invoke "OGAB", a favorite saying of my Army buddies back in 1969 at Ft. Eustis (that is, "Oh, go way Butterfly!", from Tiny Tim).

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