Moving to Omaha has been a whirlwind, but let me tell you - one of the best parts is singing with Opera Omaha.
I am singing in their production of Madama Butterfly as Kate Pinkerton, Butterfly's rival. It's a small role but an important one, and sharing the stage with the rest of the amazing cast has been absolutely incredible. On my off-nights, though, I've been promoting the opera by singing some of Butterfly's music, including the aria above, "Un Bel Di." It's an interesting thing to have experience singing both characters - it has definitely given me an insight into each one more acutely.
Madama Butterfly tells the story of a young Japanese girl of fifteen who is sold in marriage to an American soldier. He intends nothing more than fling, but she gives up everything to be with him - her family, her religion, everything. Three years later, she has borne him a son and he has left, yet she refuses to believe that he is really gone. In this aria, Butterfly sings about what their reunion will be like.
As I was looking back at some of my old blog posts, I realized how similar this aria is to "Ain't it a Pretty Night!", another piece that I recorded in concert from the opera Susannah. Both selections are moving in retrospect because the audience knows the tragedy that is going to befall the heroine, but the character herself is still hopeful and happy. I think this is a trope in opera because it is so affecting - to see someone's dreams dashed is one thing, but to see their naivete before the crash is even worse. One difference between Butterfly and Susannah is that Butterfly sings this aria in the middle of the opera, whereas Susannah sings of her hope at the beginning. Why does this matter?
The reason is because we see Susannah's progression from being an innocent young girl into a jaded woman, whereas Butterfly retains her innocence until the very last moment, when she takes her own life. She is in denial that her husband will come back for the entirety of the opera, and Puccini makes this clear musically because he references the beginning of their love story even as there is tension in her telling of what she believes will happen.
I love this aria for so many reasons, but I won't go on and on about it. Have you heard this aria before? Have you seen this opera? Don't forget to get your tickets if you're in the Omaha area!
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