I experienced Puccini’s Madama Butterfly for about the 50th time; three live productions, two radio broadcasts, and countless various recordings. Since I first heard a Met Saturday broadcast performance in my teens, I don’t believe any years have gone by that I haven’t least experienced “Un Bel Di” at least once. I look forward to another 50.
It’s not my favorite opera. It’s not even my favorite Puccini. It’s only a perfect story, told to perfect music. It is of small things and huge ideas. It crashes planet-spanning cultures into each other. It pits religions against each other. It stirs ancient needs and passions (pure and sullied, exalted and mundane). It hints that miracles can happen, and replies to itself that usually they don’t. It does all this in one house with a garden, on a hill, near the port of Nagasaki.
It is inevitable and cruel;
– Give up your child.
– He will not return.
– You cannot grow.
– You are alone.
-There are seasons.
-The cherry tree blossoms.
– The ships in the harbor keep coming.
– The pizzicato in the orchestra at the end of Act II will…not…stop…
It’s a story I could tell you in an hour, so of course an opera will tell it in three hours.
To be told a story artfully, to hear and feel music and startling word choices, to revel in the joy of knowing someone of my species thought of this and wrote it down…for me…is not a thing that cries to be hurried.
I hope I will always have time for Butterfly. Otherwise, why bother to resist?