Puccini's original 'Madama Butterfly' back at La Scala after 112 years

By Francesca Landini and Sara Rossi
| MILAN

Milan’s La Scala opera house opened its new season on Wednesday with the original, more brutal version of Giacomo Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly”, not shown there since its poorly received premiere in 1904.

The opera follows the story of the Japanese geisha Ciocio-San, who marries a U.S. army officer, F.B. Pinkerton, for love, only to see him leave Japan, then return three years later – with an American wife.

Conductor Riccardo Chailly chose to revive Puccini’s first take on the opera, in two acts rather than three, which has no aria expressing Pinkerton’s regrets at leaving the geisha.

“This makes the drama even more brutal,” Chailly said.

Unlike the 1904 production, which was greeted with hisses, Wednesday’s showing earned a 13-minute standing ovation.

“It’s Puccini’s revenge, 112 years later,” said baritone Carlos Alvarez, who sang the role of the U.S. consul, Sharpless.

Gino Vezzini, president of the Amici del Loggione (“Friends of the Gallery”) association, praised Chailly’s “accurate and emotional” rendition.

Latvian director Alvis Hermanis said he had wanted to emphasize the clash between the real, and sometimes cruel, world represented by Pinkerton and the geisha’s fantasy one.

“Everybody knows the rules of the game except for Madama Butterfly. It’s impossible not to love her,” he said.

La Scala’s gala opening night is a highlight of Italy’s social calendar, but several top politicians including the president and economy minister had to cry off to deal with the fallout of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s resignation.

(Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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