Oct. 15: A Request for Butterfly

By Ray Brown

Our 4:00 request for Friday, October 15 is from Liam for "a few bars from Madama Butterfly" on behalf of his mother, who attended a performance of the opera with HER mother 60 years ago. We'll be hearing the Humming Chorus as our opening piece, followed by the aria "Un bel di." Both selections are taken from the classic 1955 recording featuring Maria Callas, with the Chorus and Orchestra of La Scala conducted by Herbert von Karajan.

The aria comes near the beginning of Act II of the opera. The scene is a small house on a hill just outside Nagasaki; the harbor can be seen in the background. Three years have elapsed since Butterfly's marriage to the American officer Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton, a lieutenant in the United States Navy, who has long since sailed back to America. Butterfly is speaking with her servant and confidante Suzuki, who is expressing her skepticism regarding Pinkerton's return. Butterfly, however, is still fully confident about his return:

"One fine day we'll see a wisp of smoke arising over the extreme verge of the sea's horizon, and afterwards the ship will appear. Then the white ship will enter the harbor and will thunder a salute. You see? He's arrived! I shan't go down to meet him. No, I shall stand there on the brow of the hill and wait, and wait a long time, and I shan't find the long wait wearisome. And from the midst of the city crowd a man - a tiny speck - will make his way up the hill. Who can it be? And when he arrives - what will he say? He'll call 'Butterfly!' from the distance. Not answering, I'll remain hidden, partly to tease, and partly so as not to die at the first meeting. And, a trifle worried, he'll call 'My dear little wife, fragrance of verbena!' - the names he used to call me when he came here. And this will happen, I promise you. Keep your fears: with unalterable faith I shall wait for him."

By the way, there are two productions of Madama Butterfly coming up in New England this month. On October 24, Opera New Hampshire will be presenting the work at the Palace Theater in Manchester. And Teatro Lirico D'Europa opens the 12th season of opera at the Cutler Majestic Theater with three performances of Puccini's masterpiece, October 29-31.

You may have noticed that we've started a trend of fulfilling our requests for vocal selections on our Friday shows. There's a lot of different opinions about opera and classical vocal selections on the radio. What's yours? Please comment!

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