At any rate, Harley was sick, so the roommate and I went to see Madama Butterfly at City Opera, which is not quite as cool as the Met, but still pretty cool. The premise of the opera is that an American Lieutenant (Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton) for some reason is stationed in Japan, and decides to take a wife, and a house. Both of them are 999 year leases, but can be cancelled at any month. He gets the 15-year-old former Geisha Cio-Cio-San (Madama Butterfly). They marry, and she is super into it. He, however, always plans to eventually marry a 'real American' woman. At some point he leaves, and Butterfly waits for him for three years, and shortly after he has left, bears him a son. She gets the news that he's coming back, and gets super-excited, as she has believed his promises that he'd wait for her, etc, etc. In the meantime she is growing progressively poorer, and ignoring possible suitors (apparently divorce was super-easy in Japan).She stays up all night waiting for him, and falls asleep at dawn. At dawn Pinkerton arrives with his friend the consul and his new wife, Kate. They want to take the boy. Long story short, Butterfly agrees, tells him to come back in half an hour, and just as he enters the house calling out "Butterfly" she kills herself.
Ok, so the music is fabulous, interspersed with the leit motifs of "the star spangled banner" and "sakura," which is kind of neat. The singers were great, the costumes were beautiful, and the staging very interesting. I have no qualms with any of those. Here are the questions that I would have for Puccini, the author:
1) Why is an opera about Americans and Japanese people in Italian?
2) How can a Lieutenant afford a foreign wife, and a fabulous house? Corollary to that: unclear on the mechanics of how/why he felt the need to marry someone, stay in Japan that long.
3) How come he comes back on the same warship three years later? Lieutenants don't usually stay on ships that long, they switch around. Is he still a Lieutenant?
4) Why is the ship white? The Great White Fleet wasn't until 1904, and Puccini first wrote the opera in 1899. Although according to the liner notes, the definitive version was not produced until 1911, which might answer my question.
and last, but not least:
5) A 15-year-old? Really? You seduced and left a 15-year-old? And this was her second career after being a geisha? Ew.