A Pinned Butterfly

Did you know that on this day in 1904 the first performance of Giacomo Puccini’s  Madame Butterfly, the Opera was peformed at the La Scala Theatre in Milan?  No me neither.  But my late father used to sing a lot of opera so I quite like to hear it every once in awhile.  I don’t listen to as much as I should like these days really, that’s why I’m currently enjoying ‘From Pop Star to Opera Star’ at the moment.  And for the record I do think Marcella Detroit was robbed!

Hohenstein Madama Butterfly the original poster

Madame Butterfly is such a sad story of unrequited love, duplicity and tragedy (a bit like Coronation Streeet…).  Set in Nagasaki it is a disturbing story about Pinkerton, a young U.S. Naval officer and womaniser who is bored with the world and is marrying innocent young Butterfly – with a clause in the marriage contract that he can get out of it at any time he pleases.  They toast Pinkerton and he joins in saying:-

“And to the day when I will have a real wedding  and a real American bride.” 

Another beautiful poster

Poor Butterfly, she is helplessly in love with Pinkerton the cad who tells one and all that their marriage will simply be simply a farce (but one he goes through with).  Butterfly renounces her ancestral religion converting to Pinkertons.  Everyone is shocked and they renounce her and want nothing to do with her.  Three years later Butterfly is still waiting for her husband to return.  Although things look doubtful, Butterfly does not lose faith that he will return to her.  Another rich man offers to marry her – but she is adamant she is still married to Pinkerton.  She has had Pinkerton’s child and still lives in hope that he will return to her.

He does indeed return – bringing his wife with him!  the cowardly Pinkerton will not meet with her, but his wife promises to look after the son.  For Butterfly there is only one release – suicide. 

Leon Bakst the Firebird

Coincidently, I came across an old art book of mine the other day with an old favorite, which I’d completely forgot about.  Leon Bakst was a Russian painter and set designer (1866 -1924).  he did  for some Greek tragedies, painted scenery for Cleopatra and Scheherazade among many others.  He worked as an art teacher to the Great Duke Vladmir Alexandrovich of Russia in 1902 and he undertook a commission to the Tsar Nicholas 11. I love this flamboyant exuberant type of illustration!  and I bet that he was a very colourful character himself. 

Costume for Cleopatra by Bakst

More of Bakst’s art HERE The story HERE 

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2 Responses to “A Pinned Butterfly”

  1. oh thats a tragic story.
    poor woman

  2. The b/stds of that kingdom! Butterfly keeps her dignity to the end
    He is not worthy….of anything really

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