Madame Butterfly’s beginnings

Giacomo Puccini chose the subject of his 6th opera after he saw an 1898 tragedy by the same name written by David Belasco and played in London in July 1900. Although the authors had great confidence and expectations, Madame Butterfly was a resounding fiasco at Teatro La Scala in Milan on February 17, 1904. This forced the author and editor to immediately withdraw the score and carefully review the composition to make it leaner and more balanced. This new version of Madame Butterfly was received with enthusiasm at Teatro Grande in Brescia only three months later, on May 28, 1904. Even King Vittorio Emanuele the Third attended the performance. From then on, Madame Butterfly enjoyed a second, successful existence.

The local news at the time wrote: “…Puccini yesterday won its bet, triumphantly. Seven encores, twenty-five calls on stage… the theater was extraordinarily full … the boxes were crowded… an enchanting sparkle of beauties, diamonds, lace … only rarely do you see such immediate success… justified mainly by the intrinsic value of the opera, but also by its execution which couldn’t have been better….”

Afterwards, Puccini thanks the Teatro Grande management: “Brescia, cultivated and kind, has already welcomed me twice in ways that cannot be forgotten. I would like to share my emotions with the audience and thank from the bottom of my heart my friend Mascheroni, the valuable and zealous interpreters of Manon, and all those who were so kind to give me a precious, darling souvenir. I don’t feel I can measure up to this task so I ask this honorable administration to pass along this message, and I thank them for everything.”

The Teatro Grande Foundation has dedicated one of the rooms by the foyer to this important event. This room is now called Butterfly Room and contains some historical memorabilia of this first successful performance.