Sunday, March 11, 2007

Madama Butterfly

Beautiful woman, lit by flames of suffering;
she is devoured by dusk.
And offered to the night on the head of a pin,
Her crushed wings flutter, and are silent...

Dazzling Madama Butterfly! Grace, delicacy, tenderness and beauty all in one supreme figure, uplifted by her love. She is unwilling to brook any doubts, fierce in her faith, assured in her devotion, passionate in her every action and word. Her movements are exquisite and betray her depth of feeling, while her words are poetic, touched by the magic of her voice. Her sorrow adds her dignity; her naivete is touching, but her moment of realization terrifies! Unhappy, unhappy woman!

There's so much of this opera that speaks to the heart, but these are the parts that I love best:


The conversation between Pinkerton and Sharpless, but specifically:


    [seriously and kindly]

    The other day, she came up
    to call at the Consulate!
    I did not see her, but I heard her speak.
    And the mystery of her
    voice touched my very soul.
    Surely, love that is pure
    and true, speaks like that.
    It were indeed sad pity
    to tear those dainty wings,
    and perchance to torment a trusting heart
    . [emph. mine]

(And then Madame Butterfly's beautiful plea to Pinkerton)


    They say that in your country
    If a butterfly
    [with an expression of fear]
    is caught by man,
    He'll pierce its heart with a needle
    [with anguish] And then leave it to perish!


    [taking her hands again gently, and smiling]

    Some truth there is in that,
    And can you tell me why?
    That you may not escape.
    [with ardour and embracing her affectionately]
    See, I have caught you...
    I hold you as you flutter.
    Be mine.


All of Act III is brilliant, but most beautiful is Madama Butterfly's farewell song to her child (Tu, tu, piccolo Iddio)


    You? you? you? you? you? you? you?
    Beloved Idol!
    Ador'd, adorèd being,
    Fairest flower of beauty.
    [taking the child's head in her hands, she draws it to her]
    Though you ne'er must know it
    `Tis for you, my love, for you I'm
    dying, Poor Butterfly
    That you may go away
    Beyond the ocean,
    Never to feel the torment when you are older,
    That your mother forsook you!
    My son, sent to me from Heaven,
    Straight from the throne of glory,
    Take one last and careful
    look At your poor mother's face!
    That its memory may linger,
    One last look!
    Farewell, beloved! Farewell, my dearest heart!
    Go, play, play.

The part that made me cry were the lines starting from, "My son, sent to me from Heaven."

    O a me, sceso dal trono
    dell'alto Paradiso,
    guarda ben fiso, fiso
    di tua madre la faccia!...
    che te'n resti una traccia,
    guarda ben!
    Amore, addio! addio! piccolo amor!
    Va. Gioca, gioca.

(All quotes are taken from Columbia University's brilliant online translation: Act I, Act II, Act III)

The Stern Honors Program paid for the tickets, and we saw the performance at the New York State Theater in Lincoln Center. Angela Maria Blasi starred in the title role (and was outstanding.)

So dainty and ethereal a butterfly ought never to suffer as she did. But her sorrow herself transforms her, and lends her a power and a kind of luminescence that casts her as a sublime, transcendent being rather than a mere mortal, her sadness a portal to a higher sphere. And her last act...a condemnation, even though she yet loves! There is no more innocence; the illusions have been shattered. But her pride and her dignity remain; they are there in the blindfold and the thin white scarf!


Anonymous said...

Perfect. I shall allow you to 'bask in the glory of Butterfly' for several more weeks, but then you must climb up a notch in Puccini's opera repertoire and listen to 'Turandot'...

Glad you enjoyed :-)

-You know who

Anonymous said...

The following from Act # 3 always brings tears to my eyes:
"She takes her father's dagger--the weapon with which he made his suicide--and reads its inscription: "To die with honour, when one can no longer live with honour." She takes the sword and a white scarf behind a screen, and emerges a moment later with the scarf wrapped round her throat. She embraces her child for the last time and sinks to the floor. Pinkerton and Sharpless rush in and discover the dying girl. The lieutant cries out Butterfly's name in anguish as the curtain falls."
You write well!

e-kvetcher said...

Yes, Turandot is very good. Especially Nessun Dorma. And if college hasn't changed since I'd gone, Nessun Dorma in the dorm-a. :)

Charlie Hall said...

But don't you want to strangle Pinkerton?