[Met Performance] CID:38830
Metropolitan Opera Premiere

In the presence of the composer
Madama Butterfly {1} Metropolitan Opera House: 02/11/1907.
 (Metropolitan Opera Premiere)

Metropolitan Opera House
February 11, 1907
Metropolitan Opera Premiere
In the presence of the composer


Cio-Cio-San.............Geraldine Farrar
Pinkerton...............Enrico Caruso
Suzuki..................Louise Homer
Sharpless...............Antonio Scotti
Goro....................Albert Reiss
Bonze...................Adolph Mühlmann
Yamadori................Giovanni Paroli
Kate Pinkerton..........Helen Mapleson
Commissioner............Bernard Bégué
Yakuside................Arcangelo Rossi
Mother..................Josephine Jacoby
Aunt....................Katherine Moran
Cousin..................Estelle Shearman
Registrar...............Vittorio Navarini

Conductor...............Arturo Vigna

Director................Eugène Dufriche
Set Designer............Burghart & Co.
Costume Designer........Blaschke & Cie

Madama Butterfly received eleven performances this season.

[Puccini supervised the production and David Belasco, upon whose Madame Butterfly the libretto was based, attended rehearsals.]

Review of Richard Aldrich in The New York Times:

Puccini's latest opera was produced at the Metropolitan Opera House last evening for the first time under the most brilliant and favorable circumstances. There was an enormous audience, and the composer, who had himself superintended the production, appeared upon the stage and was acclaimed with every demonstration of enthusiasm and recalled time and again.

The opera was presented with the strongest forces that the Metropolitan can command. Messrs. Caruso and Scotti, who took the parts of Pinkerton and Sharpless, did so with the perfection gained by two seasons of repeated performances in London. Madama Butterfly was Miss Geraldine Farrar; Suzuki was Mme. Louise Homer, and Goro was Mr. Reiss. Mr. Vigna conducted, but through every measure of the performance, both in the orchestra and on the stage, was to be perceived the fine Italian hand of Mr. Puccini himself, who had molded it according to his own ideas and had refined and beautified it into one of the most finished performances seen at the Metropolitan for many a long day.

The delicacy, the shifting pictorial beauty, the completely penetrating atmosphere give perhaps greater delight in this opera of Puccini's than in any of his others. In nothing else has he so completely identified the music with the action, the sentiments, the passions, and the surroundings that are shown upon the stage. The story is one of emotion and suffering, the development of a tragical situation through circumstances of fantasy and romance, rather than one of strong dramatic action. It is an old story, and in its present form need only be suggested again-that of the passing fancy of a man for a woman, the devotion of the woman to the man, her abandonment by him for another, his causal return to find his cast-off love still awaiting him and preferring death to deprivation of him.

Puccini has wrought his music into the very substance and spirit of the drama. It is his subtlest and most highly finished score, and denotes an advance over his previous operas in the matter of fine detail as well as the powerful effect of the orchestration and the manipulation and development of his themes. In specifically musical invention "Madama Butterfly" may stand below "La Bohème" and "Manon Lescaut," but he has attained a finer treatment in it, even though his general method has not changed. His use of local color compels admiration for its skill and sincerity, as well as for its restraint; for a excess would soon weary and offend. The several Japanese tunes he employs are unmistakable in their character, but they bring no ugly and jarring element into the score. It is not easy to avoid the suggestion of the burlesque in the introduction of Oriental measures, but Puccini has, in truth, dignified and at times even ennobled them. So with the strain of "The Star Spangled Banner," which he brings in from time to time as a suggestion of the Americanism of his Americans, and which is by no means the uncouth intrusion that it might be.

Upon the representative of Mme. Butterfly depends much, She carries the weight of the whole dramatic fabric after the first act, and in the large part of that Miss Farrar puts a notable impersonation to her credit in it. She is charming in appearance as scarcely need be said; and her bearing, transformed into the Japanese character, is full of grace and sinuous subtleties, of smiling eagerness, and submission, of tenderness and gentle longing, as well as of tense and self-contained anguish at the end. She has an infinity of plastic poses and postures that she knows how to make count at every point. The steady crescendo of emotional tension she expresses with ample dramatic resources and her accent of heartbroken despair and of tragic resolution is fully expressive. The music she sings with charm, with intense dramatic fervor. The part of Pinkerton is unsympathetic, necessarily, and Mr. Caruso is not the man to impart distinction to such a one. But his singing of this music is of much beauty. It is as though written for his voice and fits him to perfection, and of such music he is the very man to make the most. Mme. Louise Homer made the part of Suzuki carry its full weight through her remarkably intelligent and carefully modeled impersonation.

There is more in the part of Sharpless, the American Consul, which Mr. Scotti interprets with an admirable dignity and such chivalrous tenderness as it admits of. It is at least the representation of a gentleman, and Mr. Scotti deserves thanks for finding this in it, and the means of establishing it, as well as for singing the music with such power and finish. Mr. Reiss adds another to his admirable gallery of clever character studies in his impersonation of the obsequious and officious Goro, and Mr. Mühlmann made a picturesque representative of the incensed and obstreperous bonze, though a somewhat more reckless impetuosity would become the character.

Mr. Vigna conducted with zeal; somewhat too much zeal for the orchestra was lacking in finish and subtlety, and was somewhat too loud for the evident intentions of the composer. The chorus performed its vivacious bit in the first act fairly well. A picturesque and appropriate stage setting was provided; the scene of the first act shows a garden, with the little Japanese house in the corner of it, fruit tress in rich bloom, the harbor of Nagasaki and a glimpse of the town in the distance. The second act shows the interior of the house characteristically Japanese in structure, with a smiling Spring garden seen through the sliding doors.

Review of Henry Krehbiel in the New York Tribune:

"Madama Butterfly" has brought to Miss Farrar another opportunity to disclose her splendid gifts of dramatic representation. Freed from occasional extravagance of action, which robs it of repose, which is as essential in tragic moments of the second and third scenes as in the comedy of the first, her impersonation would be almost ideal. In pose, gesture, vocal interpretation, facial expression, movement, it is full of eloquence and grace. She sounds the note of deep pathos in both action and song convincingly, and last night won the tribute of tears from many eyes. Her growth into womanhood and from womanhood to tragic stature is beautifully presented without abruptness and with real power. As she is a beautiful vision, her triumph was complete. Of Signor Caruso no one would expect an impersonation with even a little dramatic illusion; but the music is a perfect vehicle for his voice, or his voice for the music. Signor Scotti, besides singing well, has filled a needed plea for America by making a manly man out of the Consul Sharpless. Madame Homer looks, sings, and acts the part of Suzuki with lovely devotion to every detail, and Mr. Reiss makes an amusing busybody out of Goro, the matchmaker.

Photographs of Geraldine Farrar as Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly by Aimé Dupont, Gerlach, Victor Georg, and White Studio
Photographs of Geraldine Farrar and Louise Homer in Madama Butterfly by Byron

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