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Conducting Madama Butterfly in Brescia, my hometown


Brescia’s Teatro Grande sees Madama Butterfly as one of its totemsand it was out of the question not to stage it for the year of Bergamo Brescia Italian Capital of Culture, in its so-called ‘Brescia version’, of course. The reasons for this are well-known to all Puccini enthusiasts: in May 1904, three months after the resounding fiasco of its Milanese premiere, the new version of the opera was a great success in Brescia, launching the eternal fortune of this masterpiece. It was about time I conducted my first Butterfly, after hesitating and turning it down on more than one occasion, such is the immense respect and love that I had and have for this score. This time there were no doubts about saying yes to the Teatro Grande and to my city, and here I am, conducting this new production, fruit of an international co-production.

I love the boldness and the unconventional structure in the composition of this opera besides, of course, its moral and social significance. The real attraction for me, however, is its history of’ ‘cuts’, key to understanding Butterfly. We know that, after Brescia, Puccini followed performances of the opera in Genoa and Buenos Aires, and we have reason to presume that he made other cuts there too, as he had done during rehearsals in Brescia, but not necessarily the same cuts. Puccini was still adjusting the score and the stage directions in 1905 at the London Royal Opera House, and the following year in Paris at the Théâtre National de l’Opéra-Comique. Is there a definitive version of Madama Butterfly, besides that of its premiere? History suggests that there isn’t, offering us instead many authentic variations which show us how Puccini spent almost twenty years seeking his final, conclusive Madama Butterfly: music for our ears and for the sensitivity of today’s performers.