Tuesday, April 5, 2016


Madama Butterfly was a most appropriate opera scheduled for the start of  Cherry Blossom Festival Week in Washington DC.   Even though many in the audience have been suffering from allergies, there was delight at seeing the cherry blossoms drifting like snow— but on the screen so assuredly not real blossoms. 

Soprano Kristine Opolais continues to amaze as one of Puccini’s women who is obsessed by passionate love, exuding a sensuous aroma in her portrayals of Manon, Mimi, and Madama B. 

Only a few weeks before on Met Simulcast,  she sang Manon Lascaut   In April 2014, she made Met Opera history  singing Mimi  in  Boheme when the lead was sick, with short notice, after having sung Butterfly the night  before.   (Yes, two Puccini women in 19 hours!) 

And this is what invites the comparison, that Opolais presents each of the roles as unique personalities, but all swimming in that pool of human passion and pain, where Puccini places his women.

(Aside:  Puccini wrote these three operas  in that order with Tosca between  Boheme and Butterfly.   Both Tosca and Turandot are women who are in a class by themselves, with each of them, the diva and the princess having financial resources not available to this beloved trio.)

What is interesting is that when the money gets meager, Manon  finds some one who can support her in an upscale lifestyle.  Mimi too, with TB and no health insurance, knows she needs to split from the dream that love alone is going to keep her warm. 

The deserted Cio-Cio-san (who insists on being called Mademe Pinkerton)  like all dramatic characters, is also given a chance  to get out of her desperate situation.   She has a child to think of too.  Her choice as she counts change with Suzuki in the three years that Pinkerton has left her,  is that she  can marry her rich Japanese Princ Yamadori and go live in one of his palaces rather than continue in her present precarious arrangement where rent is paid by the local USA consul Sharpless is about to come to an end.  

This seems like an opportunity both Manon and Mimi would jump at. (neither had the chance
to marry up into royalty).

Does Butterfly do it?  

No way.   She rejects not only the prince but everything he stands for.  She sticks by her belief that her love makes what she believes reality.

None of these three get to live, even though all will be reunited with their great love for a few moments before THEIR END.  Butterfly is the only one who has control of her death—even as she has no choice—but to die with honor, rather than to continue to live as what is the economic basis that three women share. 
Call them courtesan, escort or geisha.   Dramatically different then the divine diva Tosca with her stage career!  Or  Ice Queen Turandot, with her own fabulous  kingdom who is the one who kills off desperate suitors!   

Whatever you call it, their loves are surely undying, as it continues to remind us at the opera!