Puccini speaks!

The Composer's Datebook from American Public Media
Monday, February 11, 2019

During the 1906-1907 season of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, America’s premiere opera company staged a mini-festival of operas by a living composer—the Italian Giacomo Puccini.

The Met’s star tenor, Enrico Caruso, could be heard in revival productions of Puccini’s “La Boheme” and “Tosca”—operas that still qualified as “contemporary music,” being just 10 and 7 years old respectively. And, with Caruso again in the leading male roles, the Met scheduled the company premiere of Puccini’s first big operatic success, “Manon Lescaut” and, on today’s date in 1907, the American premiere of Puccini’s newest opera, “Madame Butterfly.”

The Met arranged for Puccini himself to come to New York to supervise the rehearsals for “Manon Lescaut” and “Madame Butterfly,” but his ship was delayed by bad weather. Puccini arrived in New York on the day of the scheduled premiere of “Manon Lescaut,” and rushed to his box at the opera house just in time for the start of Act II—but not before acknowledging a big ovation from the audience.

If America was enthusiastic about Puccini, the feeling apparently was reciprocated. In 1912, Puccini visited the New York studios of Columbia Records to record a greeting to his American fans. His greeting was in Italian, but concluded with two words of English—a quote from the libretto for his “Madama Butterfly”—“America forever!”