Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts Verdi’s grand tale of ill-fated love, deadly vendettas, and family strife, with stellar soprano Lise Davidsen as the noble Leonora, one of the repertory’s most tormented—and thrilling—heroines. Director Mariusz Treliński delivers the company’s first new Forza in nearly 30 years, setting the scene in a contemporary world and making extensive use of the Met’s turntable to represent the unstoppable advance of destiny that drives the opera’s chain of calamitous events.
Initially conceived as an operetta before receiving the full operatic treatment, this bittersweet love story is the least-known work of the mature Giacomo Puccini, largely due to the circumstances of its premiere: Italy and Austria became enemies during World War I, precluding a Vienna premiere, and the opera quietly opened in neutral Monte Carlo, never finding a permanent place in the repertoire. That loss is scandalous, since La Rondine, judged on its own merits rather than compared to other operas with similar themes, is a fascinating work—featuring an abundance of exuberant waltzes, a lightness of tone (particularly in the intoxicating first two acts), and a romantic vision of Paris and the south of France.
The title character of Madama Butterfly—a young Japanese geisha who clings to the belief that her arrangement with a visiting American naval officer is a loving and permanent marriage—is one of the defining roles in opera. The story triggers ideas about cultural and sexual imperialism for people far removed from the opera house, and film, Broadway, and popular culture in general have riffed endlessly on it. The lyric beauty of Puccini’s score, especially the music for the thoroughly believable lead role, has made Butterfly timeless.