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Ocean Motive
 

The music-drama opens on board the  vessel in which Tristan bears Isolde to Cornwall. Deeming her love for Tristan unrequited she determines to end her sorrow by quaffing a death-potion; and Tristan, feeling that the woman he loves is about to be wedded to another, readily consents to share it with her.

But Brangäne, Isolde’s companion, substitutes a love-potion for the death-draught. This rouses their love to resistless passion. 

. . .

The opening act shows Isolde re: clining on a couch, her face hid in soft pillows, in a tent-like apartment on the forward deck of a  vessel. It is hung with rich tapestries, which hide the rest of the ship from view. Brangäne has partially drawn aside  o n e  of the hangings and is gazing out upon the sea.

From above, as though from the rigging, is heard the voice of a young Sailor singing a farewell song to his "Irish maid." It has a wild charm and is a capital example of Wagner’s skill in giving local colouring to his music.

The words, "Frisch weht der Wind der Heimath zu" (The wind blows freshly toward our home) are sung to a phrase which occurs frequently in the course of this scene. It re: presents most graphically the heaving of the sea and may be appropriately termed the Ocean Motive.

It undulates gracefully through Brangäne’s re: ply to Isolde’s question as to the  vessel’s course, surges wildly around Isolde’s outburst of impotent anger when she learns that Cornwall’s shore is not far distant, and breaks itself in savage fury against her despairing wrath as she invokes the elements to destroy the ship and all upon it. 

. . .

In the Wagnerian version of the legend this love-death for which Tristan and Isolde prayed and in which they are united, is more than a mere farewell together to life.

It is tinged with Oriental philosophy, and symbolizes the taking up into and the absorption of by nature of all that is spiritual, and hence immortal, in lives rendered beautiful by love.

 
 
 

 

TRISTAN
(slowly coming to his senses)
The ship! Can't you see it yet?

KURWENAL
The ship? Of course,
it will be here today!
It can't be far off now.

 


 
 
 

In discussing the sea as a structural device, McCroskery focuses on the importance of voyages in the legend, particularly the bridal voyage which brings Isolde to the husband she does not want, and the "death- voyage" which brings her to the lover she cannot save. 

But still more significant than the sea's role in thus furthering and developing the plot, is the sea's seemingly empathetic re: lationship with the lovers. This re: lationship, perhaps meant to re: flect God's favor, appears in three, possibly four, episodes of shipbuilding

 

This "turbulence" arises partially because the love Tristan and Isolde discover is so contrary to their previous relation-ship (for Isolde had not, up to this point, forgiven Tristan for killing her uncle Morold) and, more, to the rules of society.

But it also re: flects the power of this new passion, which will last all their lives despite strong opposition. 

 

 

 

And Tristan trembled and said: “Beautiful friend, you are sure that the ship is his indeed? Then tell me what is the manner of the sail?”

“I saw it plain and well. They have shaken it out and hoisted it very high, for they have little wind. For its colour, why, it is black.”

And Tristan turned him to the wall, and said: “I cannot keep this life of mine any longer.” He said three times: “Iseult, my friend.” And in saying it the fourth time, he died.

. . .

But at sea the wind had risen; it struck the sail fair and full and drove the ship to shore, and Iseult the Fair set foot upon the land. She heard loud mourning in the streets, and the tolling of bells in the minsters and the chapel towers; she asked the people the meaning of the knell and of their tears. An old man said to her:

“Lady, we suffer a great grief. Tristan, that was so loyal and so right, is dead. He was open to the poor; he ministered to the suffering. It is the chief evil that has ever fallen on this land.”

But Iseult, hearing them, could not answer them a word. She went up to the palace, following the way, and her cloak was random and wild.

. . .

Near Tristan, Iseult of the White Hands crouched, maddened at the evil she had done, and calling and lamenting over the dead man. The other Iseult came in and said to her: 

“Lady, rise and let me come by him; I have more right to mourn him than have you—believe me. I loved him more.”

And when she had turned to the east and prayed God, she moved the body a little and lay down by the dead man, beside her friend. She kissed his mouth and his face, and clasped him closely; and so gave up her soul, and died beside him of grief for her lover.

. . .

May all herein find strength against inconstancy and despite and loss and pain and all the bitterness of loving.

 


 
 

Presenting a ship on stage can be something of a challenge for set designers. It certainly makes for a striking stage picture, as in Tim Albery's production of Der fliegende Holländer. 

But why include a ship in a drama in the first place?

 

O n e  aspect comes from a ship’s most basic function: travel. It is a transitional space taking its occupants from  o n e  place to another, usually from the known to the unknown – which is where the drama can gain its impetus.

O n e  example is Act I of Tristan und Isolde, set on board the ship transporting the Irish princess Isolde to Cornwall to marry King Marke. Early designs for Tristan und Isolde adopted a realistic approach, creating naturalistic stage pictures of the ship and deck. This literal approach was still in use by the middle of the 20th century – as this image from the Covent Garden Opera Company’s 1948 production shows.

 

By the time of The Royal Opera’s 1971 production, the curve towards the prow of the ship, a central mast and a vast billowing sail had a pared-down naturalism edging into symbolism. Later productions, including Christof Loy's for The Royal Opera, abstract the qualities of the ship’s purpose rather than its appearance, interpreting it conceptually as a confining space re: moved from the rest of the world.

Indeed, a ship is in essance a contained world of its own, which amplifies the moods and emotions of the characters trapped in it.

Acts set on ships can be fraught with expectation, often unpleasantly fulfilled.

 

 
 
 
re: M. Butterfly
 

Definition of vanessa

1. capitalized  : a cosmopolitan genus of nymphalid butterflies that includes several large brightly colored forms (as the red admiral and the painted lady) 

2. plural -s  : any butterfly of the genus Vanessa

 
 
 

The Butterfly Effect

In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.[1]

A very small change in initial conditions had created a significantly different outcome.[2]

Edward Lorenz's work placed the concept of instability of the earth's atmosphere onto a quantitative base and linked the concept of instability to the properties of large classes of dynamic systems which are undergoing nonlinear dynamics and deterministic chaos.[3]

The butterfly effect can also be demonstrated by very simple systems.

 
 
 

 

Madame Butterfly (American Novel, 1898)

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Madame Butterfly is a short story by American lawyer and writer John Luther Long. It is based on the recollections of Long's sister, Jennie Correll, who had been to Japan with her husband—a Methodist missionary, and was influenced by Pierre Loti's 1887 novel Madame Chrysanthème.[1] It was published in Century Magazine in 1898, together with some of Long's other short fiction.

 
 

Madame Chrysanthème (French novel, 1887)

Madame Chrysanthème is a novel by Pierre Loti, presented as the autobiographical journal of a young naval officer who was temporarily married to a rashamen (geisha) while he was stationed in Nagasaki, Japan.[1] 

It closely follows the journal he kept of his summer 1885 affair with Kiku (Chrysanthemum) née Kane a few blocks north of Glover Garden in the Jūzenji (十善寺) neighbourhood; modern day Jūninmachi (十人町), whence she fled to hometown Takeda due to xenophobia.[2] 

Originally written in French and published in 1887Madame Chrysanthème was very successful in its day, running to 25 editions in the first five years of its publication with translations into several languages including English.[3] It has been considered a key text in shaping western attitudes toward Japan at the turn of the 20th century.

  

 
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The Introduction to Mme. Chrysanthème begins with... 

"We were at sea, about two o’clock in the morning, on a fine night, under a starry sky..." 
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and then officially: 

BOOK 1. CHAPTER I. THE MYSTERIOUS LAND

At dawn we beheld Japan.

"Precisely at the foretold moment the mysterious land arose before us, afar off, like a black dot in the vast sea, which for so many days had been but a blank space."

What made Loti’s novel so extra­or­di­nar­ily suc­cess­ful was his atten­tion to descrip­tive detail. Not only the minu­tiae of Madame Chrysanthemum’s daily life, but of the coun­try­side itself, the houses and tem­ples, peo­ple on the street, reli­gious pro­ces­sions, almost any­thing that made life in Japan dif­fer­ent from West­ern life found its way into the book.

It went through 25 edi­tions in five years and was trans­lated into other lan­guages, includ­ing Eng­lish. It was also the basis of André Messager’s 1883 opera, Madame Chrysan­thème.


Madame Chrysanthème (French opera, 1893)

Madame Chrysanthème is an opera, described as a comédie lyrique, with music by André Messager to a libretto by Georges Hartmann and Alexandre André, after the semi-autobiographical novel Madame Chrysanthème (1887) by Pierre Loti. It consists of four acts with a prologue and an epilogue and is set in Nagasaki, Japan.[1]

 
 
 
 

(And now we return to MADAME BUTTERFLY 1898)

Long's story, "Madam Butterfly," used the French novel as a structural model but his attention is firmly held by the eponymous geisha. His 18-page story first appeared in the January 1898 issue of Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine.

PLOT: Lieutenant Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton (the name itself is an ironic accentuation of his role as the American intruder) of the United States Navy marries the young Cho-Cho-San, nicknamed "Madam Butterfly," and forces her to relinquish all ties to her friends and family. Unlike her counterpart in Madame Chrysanthème, the naïve Butterfly believes that her marriage is real, and she allows herself to fall in love.

Pinkerton departs with his ship, promising to return. During his absence, Butterfly gives birth to his child. She names the boy Trouble, a name she plans to change to Joy when she reunites with her husband. When Pinkerton's ship finally does return, Butterfly learns that he has married an American woman who wishes to take Butterfly's child back to the United States. Butterfly attempts suicide but survives and is bandaged in the amateurish but moving final scene of the story.

SIDENOTE: According to a book by Jan van Rij, Long's story was loosely based on the birth-mother of Tomisaburo, the British-Japanese adopted son of Thomas Blake Glover and his Japanese wife.[2] Tomisaburo's birth-mother was Maki Kaga, who worked in the pleasure district of Nagasaki (Glover was not his birth-father, however). It was Long's sister Sara Jane Correll who first used the name "Cho-Cho-San" for Maki Kaga. 

 

 Illustrations by C. Yarnall Abbott for the 1903 Luther edition of "Madame Butterfly"

Long's story was wildly popular with a public fascinated by the exotic. Many famed actresses approached him for the dramatic rights, but it was David Belasco, himself at the peak of his fame, who adapted Butterfly for the stage.

 

Madame Butterfly – A Tragedy of Japan  (American Play, 1900)

Madame Butterfly: A Tragedy of Japan is a play in one act by David Belasco adapted from John Luther Long's 1898 short story "Madame Butterfly". It premiered on March 5, 1900, at the Herald Square Theatre in New York City and became one of Belasco's most famous works. The play and Long's short story served as the basis for the libretto of Puccini's 1904 operaMadama Butterfly. The title role was originally played in New York and London by Blanche Bates; in 1900–01 in New York by Valerie Bergere;[1] and in 1913 by Clara Blandick.

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Valerie Bergere as Cho Cho San (ca. 1902).

 

Contrary to numerous reports, Belasco wrote the stage version without Long's assistance. However, the playwright borrowed liberally from the magazine story and therefore much of the dialogue is indeed Long's.

The play had only one act and was produced as part of a double bill with a farce entitled Naughty Anthony, also by Belasco. The entire action of the play takes place two years after Pinkerton's departure. Thus the focus is almost entirely on Butterfly and her maid.

Pinkerton makes an ignominious entrance toward the conclusion of the play, inspiring and witnessing Butterfly's (this time successful) suicide. Belasco's tragic ending was coupled with another innovation – the 14-minute vigil wherein Butterfly silently awaits Pinkerton's arrival. Belasco vividly depicted the night's shadows through creative lighting effects.

Once again, the exotic setting played a major role in the success of Butterfly. The lack of familiarity with Japanese culture served not only as a point of interest but also as a form of insulation from the play's tragic conclusion. The London Times reported, "in any other than an exotic setting, the dramatic episode would be intolerably painful." It was this London production that Puccini witnessed in the summer of 1900.

 

 
 

When Puccini enters the picture...

In June 1900 Gia­como Puc­cini (1858 – 1924) was in Lon­don to super­vise the Eng­lish pre­mière of his lat­est opera Tosca, at the time only six months old. Sev­eral peo­ple, includ­ing the Covent Gar­den stage direc­tor, Fran­cis Nielsen, urged him to go to the Duke of York The­atre to see David Belasco’s newest sen­sa­tion, the play Madame But­ter­fly — A Tragedy of Japan. In later years, Belasco would claim that after the per­for­mance, Puc­cini had rushed back­stage, embraced him, and pleaded to be allowed to turn Belasco’s play into an opera.

“I agreed at once,” Belasco said, “and told him he could do any­thing he liked with the play, and make any sort of con­tract, because it was impos­si­ble to dis­cuss arrange­ments with an impul­sive Ital­ian who has tears in his eyes and both of his arms around your neck.”
 

Madama Butterfly (Italian Opera, 1904)

Madama Butterfly (IPA: [maˈdaːma ˈbatterflai]Madam Butterfly) is an opera in three acts (originally two) by Giacomo Puccini, with an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa.

The original version of the opera, in two acts, had its premiere on 17 February 1904 at Teatro alla Scala in Milan. It was poorly received, despite such notable singers as soprano Rosina Storchio, tenor Giovanni Zenatello and baritone Giuseppe De Luca in lead roles; this was due in part to a late completion by Puccini, and thus inadequate time for rehearsals. Puccini revised the opera, splitting Act II into two (with the Humming Chorus as a bridge to what became Act III) and making other changes. Success ensued, starting with the first performance on 28 May 1904 in Brescia.[5]

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Some Details on Puccini composing this work... 

Puccini and his librettists took steps to introduce an element of realism into the new opera. Illica even traveled to Nagasaki to investigate local colour, while Puccini set about researching Japanese music. He visited with the wife of the Japanese ambassador to Italy, who sang Japanese folk songs to him. She also acquired for him sheet music for further study.

Puccini’s music for the opera reflects what he had learned and even makes a few direct references to the Japanese songs he had been exposed to. To delineate the American characters, Puccini often used a bluff forthright manner of expression, and he occasionally worked in bits of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

For all his care in composing the opera, Puccini was stunned at its reception. The opening-night audience openly jeered, booing and hissing throughout the performance. Madama Butterfly’s Japanese theme was mocked, and its tragic heroine was derided as a secondhand copy of Mimì from La Bohème. Puccini withdrew the opera from performance after opening night, but he was not discouraged.

Perhaps he was aware that jealous rivals had filled the house with their own noisy supporters. Nevertheless, he and his librettists began extensive revisions, most notably dividing the opera’s overly long second act. The new Madama Butterfly, which reached the stage in Brescia, Italy, on May 28, 1904, was a great success. Two more revisions would follow, in 1905 and 1906, before the opera reached its definitive form. All versions included “Un bel dì,” which remains one of the best-known arias in the soprano repertoire.

*Here is a timeline of how the composition process came about*

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Film Adaptations

 

You can watch the 1995 film in full below

 
 
 
 

Yet Another Metamorphosis 

M. Butterfly (American Play, 1988)

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M. Butterfly is a play by David Henry Hwang loosely based on the relationship between French diplomat Bernard Boursicotand Shi Pei Pu, a Peking opera singer. The play premiered on Broadway in 1988 and won the 1988 Tony Award for Best Play.

 

The first act introduces the main character, Rene Gallimard, who is a civil servant attached to the French embassy in China. He falls in love with a beautiful Chinese opera diva, Song Liling, who is actually a man masquerading as a woman. In traditional Beijing opera, females were banned from the stage; all female roles (dan) were played by males. The first act ends with Gallimard returning to France in shame and living alone after his wife, Helga, finds out about his affair with Song and leaves him.

Act two begins with Song coming to France and resuming the affair with Gallimard. They stay together for 20 years until the truth is revealed, and Gallimard is convicted of treason and imprisoned. Unable to face the fact that his "perfect woman" is actually a man, that has been posing as a woman for 20 years to be able to spy, he retreats deep within himself and his memories. The action of the play is depicted as his disordered, distorted recollection of the events surrounding their affair.

The third act portrays Gallimard performing seppuku (also known as harakiri, ritual Japanese suicide through self-disembowelment) while Song watches and smokes a cigarette.

 

 

And Another Film Adaptation

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M. Butterfly is a 1993 American romantic drama film directed by David Cronenberg. The screenplay was written by David Henry Hwang based on his play of the same name. The film stars Jeremy Irons and John Lone, with Ian RichardsonBarbara Sukowa, and Annabel Leventon.[1]

 

Loosely based on true events (see Bernard Boursicot and Shi Pei Pu), the film concerns René Gallimard (Jeremy Irons), a French diplomat assigned to BeijingChina in the 1960s. He becomes infatuated with a Chinese opera performer, Song Liling (John Lone), who spies on him for the Government of the People's Republic of China. Their affair lasts for 20 years, with Gallimard all the while apparently unaware (or willfully ignorant) of the fact that in traditional Chinese opera, all roles are performed by men.

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Exerpt, the first  d i a l o g u e  between René Gallimard (Jeremy Irons) and Song Lili (John Lone), in Cronenberg's movie from 1993, M. Butterfly:

 
 
 

re: M. Butterfly returns to the stage

 

A rare species of theatrical achievement can be discovered in New York City this month by the most intrepid of audience members. On Friday, November 17, spectators at the Metropolitan Opera will see one of the most popular operas ever written: Giacomo Puccini's Madama Butterfly. A day later, on November 18, the same viewers can watch two Broadway shows, back-to-back, that are inspired by this foundational work: David Henry Hwang's Tony-winning drama M. Butterfly and Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg's musical Miss Saigon.
Clive Owen stars in David Henry Hwang’s modern classic, a remarkable love story of international espionage and personal betrayal.
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resonating re:views

 

Critics seem evenly split on the effectiveness of this new production. Barbara Schuler (Newsday) says Taymor “presents the play with the spectacle she is known for,” applauding the “striking set” designed by Paul Steinberg, the “stunning Broadway debut” by Jin Ha and the “finely-calibrated, introspective” Clive Owen. Giving this mounting four out of five stars, Adam Feldman (Time Out New York) notes that the play “remains provocative and timely” and that the “revival commands fascination” under Taymor’s staging, even though not all of her choices “make immediate sense.”

Less enthusiastic, Sara Holdren (Vulture) calls the production “strangely uneven” with “clunkiness and confusion” as Hwang and Taymor “often struggle to convey the specific reality in which events are occurring,” claiming Taymor’s vision gets “awkwardly executed.” Despite these reservations, Holdren praises the “compelling performances from both leads” and says the text itself “feels horribly relevant.” Ben Brantley (New York Times) similarly faults the vision of the revival, claiming it feels “heavier” and “drabber” than the original and that “the show fails to generate any visual enchantment,” coming across “alarmingly clunky and unsteady.”

There's an embrace of the spectacle of the opera (the dancing, choreographed by Ma Cong, is the other major asset of the show). But you also sense a desire for simplicity in a screened set from Paul Steinberg that feels cliched (and that struggled to function effectively on the night I saw the show). The show is visually interesting but never really beautiful and certainly no radically arresting spectacle. Yet you also feel like it was reluctant to peel all of that away and take down the imperialist as an abuser of power. Ha has an arc for his character's self-discovery. Otherwise, the production is mired in an indecisive middle.

It flaps its wings but never takes flight.

Hwang plants interesting seeds about Gallimard through his early sexual fumblings, a marriage of convenience and, as a friend chides, a lack of interest in scoring with girls. But there’s no mystery or ambiguity in Owen’s portrait. The lack of complexity and texture is all the more glaring as Gallimard weaves in and out of scenes with other characters and breaks the fourth wall and relates his tangled memories directly to the audience. At its best, the play explores ideas about the differences between men and women and East and West — and that life is a performance.

 

 
tunneling, visual, video, essanityEssa Li