A New Type of Operatic Heroine

Illustration of Bizet’s opera Carmen, by Luc. It was published in Journal Amusant in 1875

 
 

Poster from 1975

 
 

Carmen is an opera comique in four acts by the French composer Georges Bizet. The libretto was written by Henri Meilhac and , based on a novella of the same title by Prosper Mérimée. The opera was first performed at the Opéra-Comique in Paris, on 3 March 1875, and at first was not particularly successful.

 
 

Celestine Galli-Marie, the mezzosoprano who created the role of Carmen. Painting by Henri Lucien Doucet.

 
 

The depictions of proletarian life, immorality and lawlessness, and the tragic death of the main character on stage, broke new ground in French opera and were highly controversial. After the premiere, most reviews were critical, and the French public was generally indifferent. Carmen initially gained its reputation through a series of productions outside France, and was not revived in Paris until 1883; thereafter it rapidly acquired celebrity at home and abroad, and continues to be one of the most frequently performed operas; the Habanera from act 1 and the Toreador Song from act 2 are among the best known of all operatic arias. Later commentators have asserted that Carmen forms the bridge between the tradition of opéra comique and the realism or verismo that characterised late 19th-century Italian opera.

 
 

Poster for a circa 1896 American production of Georges Bizet’s Carmen, starring Rosabel Morrison, and under the management of Edward. J. Abraham

 
 

When artistic life in Paris resumed after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71, Bizet found wider opportunities for the performance of his works; his one-act opera Djamileh opened at the Opéra-Comique in May 1872. Although this failed and was withdrawn after 11 performances, it led to a further commission from the theatre, this time for a full-length opera for which Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy would provide the libretto. Halévy, who had written the text for Bizet’s student opera Le docteur Miracle (1856), was a cousin of Bizet’s wife, Geneviève; he and Meilhac had a solid reputation as the librettists of many of Jacques Offenbach‘s operettas.

Bizet was delighted with the Opéra-Comique commission, and expressed to his friend Edmund Galabert his satisfaction in “the absolute certainty of having found my path”. The subject of the projected work was a matter of discussion between composer, librettists and the Opéra-Comique management; Adolphe de Leuven, on behalf of the theatre, made several suggestions that were politely rejected. It was Bizet who first proposed an adaptation of Prosper Mérimée’s novella Carmen. Mérimée’s story is a blend of travelogue and adventure yarn, probably inspired by the writer’s lengthy travels in Spain in 1830, and had originally been published in 1845 in the journal Revue des deux Mondes. It may have been influenced in part by Alexander Pushkin‘s 1824 poem The Gypsies, a work Mérimée had translated into French; it has also been suggested that the story was developed from an incident told to Mérimée by his friend the Countess Montijo. Bizet may first have encountered the story during his Rome sojourn of 1858–60, since his journals record Mérimée as one of the writers whose works he absorbed in those years.

Carmen herself, is a new type of operatic heroine representing a new kind of love, not the innocent kind associated with the “spotless soprano” school, but something altogether more vital and dangerous. Her capriciousness, fearlessness and love of freedom are all musically represented: “She is redeemed from any suspicion of vulgarity by her qualities of courage and fatalism so vividly realised in the music”. American music critic and journalist Harold C. Schonberg likens Carmen to “a female Don Giovanni. She would rather die than be false to herself”.

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References to Franz Kafka and Popular Culture

 
 

Haruki Murakami makes numerous literary, musical and film references throughout the novel Kakfa on the Shore, particularly to (who else?) Franz Kafka. Several of the characters in the book have a relationship with Kafka or “Kafkaesque” themes, the most obvious being the name the protagonist gives to himself, Kafka Tamura. While the reader never finds out his real name, he explains why he chooses the name Kafka to represent his identity. But why Kafka? It is possible that Murakami used Franz Kafka to emphasize themes of isolation and alienation, as well as to critique forms of Japanese bureaucracy and the police force investigating his father’s murder in particular.

 
 

“Nobody’s going to help me. At least no one has up till now. So I have to make it on my own. I have to get stronger–like a stray crow. That’s why I gave myself the name Kafka. That’s what Kafka means in Czech, you know–crow.”

 
 

Franz Kafka is also a figure that draws many of the characters together. Kafka Tamura is only allowed to stay in the library after revealing his name, which has an profound effect on the library staff. The tragedy of the death of Miss Saeki’s lover is shown in a song she writes for him, named Kafka on the Shore, which also becomes the title of the book. There is a consistently a switching of identities concerning the protagonist which all seem linked in some way or another to Franz Kafka. He switches from 15 year-old runaway, to “Crow”, his alter-ego, to Miss Saeki’s 15-year old boyfriend (who is also named Kafka by Miss Saeki) when he enters his old quarters. In this way, Murakami ties together some of the surreal events in the book by using Franz Kafka as a continuous reference.

With the majority of the novel being set in a library, it is abundant with literary and musical references. Much like the Franz Kafka reference, Murakami uses these references a moments in the plot that draw characters together. In their isolation, the main characters are absorbed in literature, music, and art, providing a starting point for much of their conversations and relationships. In addition to the obvious Oedipial reference throughout the novel, as Kafka searches desperately for his mother and sister, however at the same time, Murakami brings references from popular culture to life, adding a surreal and oddly comical overlay to the events in the novel. In a parallel storyline, Kafka Tamura’s father, brilliant sculptor and crazed cat murderer, takes on the pseudonym of Johnnie Walker. Colonel Sanders, the KFC icon, becomes a character in the novel, a pimp that guides Nakata and Hoshino to Takamatsu and the library, merging both storylines. Truck driver Hoshino, throws away his job and uproots himself after listening to Beethoven’s Archduke Trio, while Kafka Tamura calms himself in an isolated cabin, listening to Prince on his walkman. Murakami cultivates these references similarly to the way he develops architecture in the novel; both historical and contemporary, they blur the passing of time and are devices for the character’s self exploration and identity.

 
 

LITERARY REFERENCES:

The Book of Thousand Nights and a Night, Translated by Sir Richard Francis Burton

The Banquet, by Plato

The Castle, by Franz Kafka

The Trial, by Franz Kafka

The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka

In The Penal Colony, by Franz Kafka

• Complete Works of Natsume Sōseki

The Tale Of Genji, by Lady Murasaki Shikibu, translated by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki

Trial of Adolf Eichmann, (Unknown)

Macbeth, by William Shakespeare

Hamlet, by William Shakespeare

Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare

Agamemnon, by Aeschylus

The Trojan Women, by Euripides

Rhetoric, by Aristotle

Poetics, by Aristotle

Electra, by Sophocles

Oedipus Rex, by Sophocles

The Hollow Men (poem), by T. S. Eliot

Tales of Moonlight and Rain, by Ueda Akinari

Matter and Memory, by Henri Bergson

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Aladdin, Added by Antoine Galland to French translation of The Book of Thousand Nights and a Night

The Frog Prince, The Brothers Grimm

Hansel and Gretel, by The Brothers Grimm

Uncle Vanya, by Anton Chekhov

A Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, by Jean Jacques Rousseau

 
 

AUTHORIAL REFERENCES:

Leo Tolstoy

Federico García Lorca

Ernest Hemingway

Charles Dickens

 
 

MUSIC REFERENCES:

Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, by The Beatles

The White Album, by The Beatles

As Time Goes By, from the movie Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)

Blonde on Blonde, by Bob Dylan

Mi chiamano Mimi, from La Bohème, by Giacomo Puccini

Sonata in D Major (known as the Gasteiner), by Franz Schubert

Crossroads, by Cream

Little Red Corvette, by Prince

Greatest Hits, by Prince

Sittin’ On The Dock of the Bay, by Otis Redding

Archduke Trio, (by Rubinstein, Heifetz and Feuermann) by Ludwig van Beethoven

First cello concerto, (solo by Pierre Fournier) by Franz Joseph Haydn

Posthorn Serenade, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Kid A, by Radiohead

My Favourite Things, by John Coltrane

Getz/Gilberto, by Stan Getz

 
 

ARTIST/COMPOSER REFERENCES:

Duke Ellington

Led Zeppelin

Schumann

Alfred Brendel

Rolling Stones

Beach Boys

Simon & Garfunkel

Stevie Wonder

Johann Sebastian Bach

Hector Berlioz

Richard Wagner

Franz Liszt

One Good Day, We Will See

Departure of the Winged Ship, Vladimir Kush, circa 2000.
Although his style is frequently described as surrealist, Kush himself refers to it as “metaphorical realism” and cites the early influence on his style of Salvador Dalí’s surrealist paintings as well as landscapes by the German romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich.

 
 

Un bel dì, vedremo
levarsi un fil di fumo
sull’estremo confin del mare.
E poi la nave appare.
Poi la nave bianca
entra nel porto,
romba il suo saluto.

Vedi? È venuto!
Io non gli scendo incontro. Io no.
Mi metto là sul ciglio del colle e aspetto,
e aspetto gran tempo
e non mi pesa,
la lunga attesa.

E uscito dalla folla cittadina,
un uomo, un picciol punto
s’avvia per la collina.
Chi sarà? chi sarà?
E come sarà giunto
che dirà? che dirà?
Chiamerà Butterfly dalla lontana.
Io senza dar risposta
me ne starò nascosta
un po’ per celia
e un po’ per non morire
al primo incontro;
ed egli alquanto in pena
chiamerà, chiamerà:
“Piccina mogliettina,
olezzo di verbena”
i nomi che mi dava al suo venire.

Tutto questo avverrà,
te lo prometto.
Tienti la tua paura,
io con sicura fede l’aspetto.

 
 

(One good day, we will see
Arising a strand of smoke
Over the far horizon on the sea
And then the ship appears
And then the ship is white
It enters into the port, it rumbles its salute.

Do you see it? He is coming!
I don’t go down to meet him, not I.
I stay upon the edge of the hill
And I wait a long time
but I do not grow weary of the long wait.

And leaving from the crowded city,
A man, a little speck
Climbing the hill.
Who is it? Who is it?
And as he arrives
What will he say? What will he say?
He will call Butterfly from the distance
I without answering
Stay hidden
A little to tease him,
A little as to not die.
At the first meeting,
And then a little troubled
He will call, he will call
“Little one, dear wife
Blossom of orange”
The names he called me at his last coming.

All this will happen,
I promise you this
Hold back your fears –
I with secure faith wait for him.)

Madame Butterfly
Act 2
Giacomo Puccini

 
 

In Un bel dì vedremo, the opera’s most famous aria (and one of the most popular works in the soprano repertoire), Butterfly says that, “one beautiful day”, they will see a puff of smoke on the far horizon. Then a ship will appear and enter the harbor. She will not go down to meet him but will wait on the hill for him to come. After a long time, she will see in the far distance a man beginning the walk out of the city and up the hill. When he arrives, he will call “Butterfly” from a distance, but she will not answer, partly for fun and partly not to die from the excitement of the first meeting. Then he will speak the names he used to call her: “Little one. Dear wife. Orange blossom.” Butterfly promises Suzuki that this will happen. Suzuki departs, as Sharpless and Goro arrive in the garden.

Madame Butterfly Throughout the World

“Dovunque al mondo lo Yankee vagabondo
si gode e traffica
sprezzando rischi.
Affonda l’áncora alla ventura…
Affonda l’áncora alla ventura
finchè una raffica
scompigli nave e ormeggi, alberatura.
La vita ei non appaga
se non fa suo tesor
i fiori d’ogni plaga,…
…d’ogni bella gli amor.”

(The whole world over,
on business and pleasure,
the Yankee travels all danger scorning.
His anchor boldly he casts at random…
…His anchor boldly he casts at random,
until a sudden squall
upsets his ship, then up go sails and rigging.
And life is not worth living
if he can’t win the best
and fairest of each country,…
…and the heart of each maid.)

Dovunque al mondo (Throughout the world).
Aria From Act I

 
 

 
 

Madama Butterfly (Madame Butterfly) is an opera in three acts (originally two acts) by Giacomo Puccini, with an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. The libretto of the opera is based in part on the short story Madame Butterfly (1898) by John Luther Long – which in turn was based partially on stories told to Long by his sister Jennie Correll and partially on the semi-autographical 1887 French novel Madame Chrysanthème by Pierre Loti.

Long’s short story was dramatized by David Belasco as a one-act play, Madame Butterfly: A Tragedy of Japan (1900). After premiering in New York, Belasco’s play moved to London, where Puccini saw it in the summer of 1900.

 
 

 
 

Puccini wrote five versions of the opera. The original version in two-acts, which was presented at the world premiere at La Scala on 17 February 1904, was withdrawn after the disasterous premiere. Puccini then substantially rewrote it, this time in three acts. This second version was performed on 28 May 1904 in Brescia, where it was a great success. It was this second version that premiered in the United States in 1906, first in Washington, D.C., in October, and then in New York in November, performed by Henry Savage‘s New English Opera Company (so named because it performed in English-language translations). Madama Butterfly is a staple of the standard operatic repertoire for companies around the world, ranking 7th in the Operabase list of the most-performed operas worldwide.

ACT 1

In 1904, a U.S. Naval officer named Pinkerton rents a house on a hill in Nagasaki, Japan, for him and his soon-to-be wife, “Butterfly”. Her real name is Ciocio-san, (cio-cio, pronounced “chocho”: the Japanese word for “butterfly” is chō 蝶). She is a 15-year-old Japanese girl whom he is marrying for convenience, since he intends to leave her once he finds a proper American wife, and since Japanese divorce laws are very lax. The wedding is to take place at the house. Butterfly had been so excited to marry an American that she had earlier secretly converted to Christianity. After the wedding ceremony, her uninvited uncle, a bonze, who has found out about her conversion, comes to the house, curses her and orders all the guests to leave, which they do while renouncing her. Pinkerton and Butterfly sing a love duet and prepare to spend their first night together.

ACT 2

Three years later, Butterfly is still waiting for Pinkerton to return, as he had left shortly after their wedding. Her maid Suzuki keeps trying to convince her that he is not coming back, but Butterfly will not listen to her. Goro, the marriage broker who arranged her marriage, keeps trying to marry her off again, but she won’t listen to him either. The American Consul, Sharpless, comes to the house with a letter which he has received from Pinkerton which asks him to break some news to Butterfly, that Pinkerton is coming back to Japan, but Sharpless cannot bring himself to finish it because Butterfly becomes very excited to hear that Pinkerton is coming back. Sharpless asks Butterfly what she would do if Pinkerton were not to return. She then reveals that she gave birth to Pinkerton’s son after he had left and asks Sharpless to tell him.

ACT 3

Suzuki wakes up in the morning and Butterfly finally falls asleep. Sharpless and Pinkerton arrive at the house, along with Pinkerton’s new American wife, Kate. They have come because Kate has agreed to raise the child. But, as Pinkerton sees how Butterfly has decorated the house for his return, he realizes he has made a huge mistake. He admits that he is a coward and cannot face her, leaving Suzuki, Sharpless and Kate to break the news to Butterfly. Agreeing to give up her child if Pinkerton comes himself to see her, she then prays to statues of her ancestral gods, says goodbye to her son, and blindfolds him. She places a small American flag into his hands and goes behind a screen, cutting her throat with her father’s hara-kiri knife. Pinkerton rushes in. He is too late.

From the hill house, Butterfly sees Pinkerton’s ship arriving in the harbour. She and Suzuki prepare for his arrival, and then they wait. Suzuki and the child fall asleep, but Butterfly stays up all night waiting for him to arrive.

Although almost no singing occurs during the film, much of the underscoring is from or based on Puccini’s opera Madama Butterfly, and much of it in the corresponding places of where it would occur in the opera

 
 

ADAPTATIONS

 
 

Mary Pickford, wearing a peacock feather printed kimono, writing at a desk. Silent film version of Madame Butterfly (Sidney Olcott, 1915). Olcott, reportedly wanted Pickford to be more reserved and Oriental and walked off the set in protest of her too Americanized Cio Cio San

 
 

The Toll of the Sea (Chester M. Franklin, 1922). The plot was a variation of the Madama Butterfly story, set in China instead of Japan. It was the second two-color Technicolor motion picture ever released and the first film made using Technicolor Process 2

 
 

Madame Butterfly (Marion Gering, 1932). A non-singing drama made by Paramount starring Sylvia Sidney and Cary Grant in black and white. Although almost no singing occurs during the film, much of the underscoring is from or based on Puccini’s opera Madama Butterfly, and much of it in the corresponding places of where it would occur in the opera

 
 

The film Fatal Attraction (Adrian Lyne, 1987) starring Michael Douglas and Glenn Close makes several references to Madame Butterfly, and the soundtrack features extracts from the opera. Scorned and dangerously obsessed former lover Alex Forrest (Close) finds comfort in and identifies heavily with Cio-Cio San. The original, abandoned ending of the film shows Alex committing suicide in an identical fashion as Cio-Cio San while Un bel dì plays in the background

 
 

Miss Saigon is a musical by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, with lyrics by Boublil and Richard Maltby, Jr. premièred at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London, on 20 September 1989. It is based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly, and similarly tells the tragic tale of a doomed romance involving an Asian woman abandoned by her American lover. The setting of the plot is relocated to the 1970s Saigon during the Vietnam War, and Madame Butterfly’s story of marriage between an American lieutenant and Japanese girl is replaced by a romance between an American GI and a Vietnamese bar girl

 
 

M Butterfly (David Cronenberg, 1993). The screenplay was written by David Henry Hwang based on his play of the same name

 
 

Pinkerton is the second studio album by the American alternative rock band Weezer, released on September 24, 1996. the album is named after the character BF Pinkerton from Giacomo Puccini’s 1904 opera Madama Butterfly, whom Rivers Cuomo described as an “asshole American sailor similar to a touring rock star”. Like the opera, the album contains references to Japan and Japanese culture

 
 

The artwork on the album’s cover is Kambara yoru no yuki (Night snow at Kambara), an ukiyo-e print by Hiroshige

 
 

Behind the album’s CD tray is a map with the title “Isola della farfalla e penisola di cane” (Italian for “Island of the Butterfly and Peninsula of Dog”). On the map are a ship named USS Pinkerton and “Mykel and Carli Island”, an allusion to Weezer’s fan club founders. In a 2005 appearance on The Howard Stern Show, Cuomo explained that the names listed on the map are those who influenced him during the writing of the album, with Howard Stern being one of those influences

 
 

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