Madame Butterfly

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Thursday, February 10, 2005
Thursday night I saw the Portland Opera production of Madame Butterfly. It was beautiful; lovely sets, lovely singing, tragic story. The orchestra was fantastic - I love the sound of an orchestra warming up before a performance. The problem (and it's not really a problem) comes from what I am starting to see as my own Tragic Flaw. Tragedies make me irritated. I don't mean real-life tragedies, which make me cry like any other human with feelings, but the Tragedy of the stage - irritated. Romeo and Juliet? I think they are both idiotic. Or were idiotic until they had their little misunderstanding, then they ceased to be much at all except lauded examples of romantic love. To which I say come ON! I love the language, I really do. But the ending... it's Well, maybe I'm too practical, but honestly.

In this story, if it were up to me - B.F. Pinkerton would be drop kicked into the Sea of Japan and possibly eaten by a Sea Monster. If for some reason he was able to swim his sorry ass back to Nagasaki, Cio-Cio San (Madame Butterfly) would come up with a better solution to her problem than killing herself so that her son wouldn't feel guilty for leaving with his jackhole father and his new wife. That's a solution, Cio-Cio San???? I know, I know - the culture of honor. Obviously, I have none.

Aaaand, in perfect fairness if everyone behaved reasonably, there would be no Opera at all. Or drama, or anything. So, I retract the part about how Pinkerton should fall off the boat in the first act. I just don't connect with it on a real level of understanding, I guess. It seems so pointless, which is what makes it tragic. So they say.

I had an odd moment of cognative dissonance while at the Opera. I had finally put it together (shut up!) that Weezer's album Pinkerton was referencing Madame Butterfly (or possibly the play the opera is based on, I guess). So, to prepare for the opera I listened to one of my favorite songs ever, El Scorcho. And then once at the opera I had more dissonance! Because I hadn't realized that Madame Butterfly's name was Cio-Cio San, who is mentioned by name in El Scorcho. Duh. I have even SEEN Madame Butterfly before (way back in the the olden days when Bec and I had a freind who worked in the opera shop and we would get free tickets to the last dress rehearsal)!! I even have the CD single of El Scorcho that Bec found for me - but it had no cover art, which I see now (on this site) has a picture of Cio-Cio San on the cover. The lyrics are also there, if you are curious at all.

To sum up - Portland Opera has a lovely production of Madame Butterfly (and a lovely version of the famous aria heard in pasta and butter-substitute commercials the world over), but it does not have a sensible ending. But perhaps if your heart is not dead to the capital R romance of capital T tragedy, the lack of sensible ending will not be an impediment but instead a catharsis.
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