by Madalyn Johnson & Jessica McKenzie, Asst. A&E Editor & Staff Writer
Manhattan College’s Italian Club took a trip to the Metropolitan Opera House on Wednesday, Nov. 6 to attend a production of one of the most beloved and classic Italian operas known today: Madama Butterfly.
The text of the opera was written by Luigi Illicia and Giuseppe Giacosa, while the opera itself was composed by Italian composer Giacomo Puccini, who is widely recognized as “the greatest Italian composer after Verdi.” Originally constructed as a short story in 1898 by John Luther Long and then turned into an one-act play by David Belasco titled “Madama Butterfly: A Tragedy of Japan,” Puccini saw the play in London and was inspired to illustrate more emotionality in this complicated love story through singing and orchestral music.
The story takes place in Nagasaki, Japan and is centered around a geisha named Cio-Cio San (otherwise known as Madama Butterfly), who falls in love and marries an American lieutenant, Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton. Faced by forceful criticism from her family and ridiculed for infringing her ancestry, she takes off with Pinkerton after her wedding ceremony. From there, the story follows Butterfly after a time jump of three years as she waits in a little house overlooking the harbor for her husband’s return.
The music featured in this opera exemplifies the post-Romantic musical tradition, vertismo, which analyzes the psychological mindset of relatable, human characters after traumatic events like heartbreak. Many Italian composers, including Puccini, used this technique as inspiration for their famous works that are still performed for audiences in the 21st century. This particular opera is also famous for being associated with exoticism, a trend where artists were fascinated with the cultures of other countries which took off in the late 19th century.
The novelty, patriotism and detail that went into the Japaneese-inspired costumes really impressed the members of the Italian club, as well as the singers’ capability to sing projectively and powerfully for a large audience. The traditional Japaneese puppetry (bunraku puppet theatre) that was used to portray Butterfly and Pinkerton’s young son also caught the eye of many Italian club members and was considered one of the most memorable parts of the show.
As compared to other events the MC Italian Club has participated in this year, like the pizza social and San Gennaro festival, members seemed to agree the trip to see an opera at the MET was by far one of the most popular and favored events. Sophomore Nick Balzano serves as the event coordinator of the Italian club and highly advises that students join the club to participate in these cultural events the club works so hard to organize.
“The Italian club did a fantastic job organizing this event in the city and I highly recommend coming to any of our other events we run,” Balzano said.
Chloe Burns, another member who attended, took note that Madama Butterfly carried a similar theme to Bizet’s “Carmen,” an opera the club went to see last year.
“I went last year and we saw ‘Carmen,’” Burns shared. “This year and last year, they were both very sad and this year, I think the costuming was more elaborate.”
Brianna Avalos is a commuter student who frequently attends Italian Club-organized events in the city. She wants to inform students that regardless of whether they are Italian or not, they should still be engaged with the club because it broadens their cultural awareness and may surprise them as being an enjoyable experience.
“It will immerse the amount of culture [audience members] are exposed to. I’m not Italian, but I really enjoyed coming. I’ve never been to an opera before and I thought it was a really fun experience,” said Avalos.