Eftychia Papanikolaou, Associate Professor of Musicology, has been invited to present two pre-performance lectures at Toledo Opera’s production of Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Friday, October 2 at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday, October 4 at 1 p.m.
The allure of the East had captivated opera audiences for the better part of the nineteenth century—tales of the Other constructed through European lens offered boundless opportunities for visual splendor and aural opulence. Written at the dawn of the new century, Madama Butterfly (1904) constitutes Giacomo Puccini’s answer to japonisme, the overwhelming fascination with everything Japanese that thrilled Europeans and Americans alike after 1860.
The opera transports us to the exotic world of nineteenth-century Japan and the ill-fated love between a 15-year-old geisha and an American naval officer. The innocent but passionate Cio-Cio-San (Butterfly) marries the conceited Lieutenant Pinkerton, only to be abandoned when he returns to the US. The stereotypical portrayal of the two protagonists gives us a glimpse into the uneasy historical context that surrounded the encounter between East and West. Puccini’s score, peppered with traditional Japanese music he studied while composing the opera, leaves no doubt about the irresistible power of the music to move, surprise and seduce us. It invites us to leave behind our present-day post-colonial anxieties and rather indulge in the emotional cornucopia and dramatic finesse of one of the composer’s finest creations.
Toledo Opera’s Madama Butterfly is a production of the so-called “Brescia version” of May 1904, the revision that Puccini fashioned three months after the disastrous premiere at La Scala. The opera would undergo several more revisions, until its standard version was established in the Paris production of 1906.
Eftychia Papanikolaou, Ph.D.
Bowling Green State University
For more information please visit ToledoOpera.org.