Opera Daily 🎶 — Mothers, the quiet heroes of history
A tribute to my mother
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I am not a mother, but I am a daughter.
I can't speak firsthand about all the emotions mothers go through, but as a daughter, I think I have some idea of how hard it is to be a mother.
Today I am grateful for mine.
Why are we so hard on mothers?
Sure, everyone loves a mom on Mother's Day, but people aren't nearly as kind the rest of the year.
Unfortunately, moms have had it very hard in the opera world, often taking the role of the obligatory villain. Perhaps it was due to a near male monopoly on operatic composition, but I think it's because being a mother is the most complex and most important job in the world.
Yes, she might look like a "villain" in the story, but I think she is just someone who cares and loves so much it drives her crazy.
Mothers are the quiet heroes of history.
As human beings, our lives begin in the shelter of our mother’s care and affection, without which we would not survive.
When I think about what mothers have put up with over time, the indignities they tolerated, and the sacrifices they were willing to make every day for their families, I get mad at myself for ever showing any slight sign of disrespect to mine.
For most of us, our mother is our first teacher.
As we celebrate Mother's Day today, let's think about how mom’s have shaped history.
Today we are listening to one of opera’s most devoted mothers — Cio-Cio San from Madama Butterfly by Puccini.
🎧 Listening Example: (7 minute listen): 1974 movie of Puccini's Madama Butterfly with Mirella Freni in the title role, Placido Domingo as Pinkerton, Christa Ludwig as Suzuki, Robert Kerns as Sharpless, and Michel Sénéchal as Goro, Herbert von Karajan, conductor
Click here to see the full version of the film.
Sympathy is a familiar sentiment surrounding Puccini’s heroines. Madama Butterfly is only a 15-year-old girl when she falls in love with an American naval officer under the pretense of marriage. When the man finally returns to Japan, a day she has been yearning for, he brings his new American wife, prompting Butterfly to commit suicide, hoping that her son will now have a better life.
In this scene, dismissing everyone, Butterfly takes out the dagger with which her father committed suicide, choosing to die with honor rather than live in shame. She is interrupted momentarily when the child comes in, but Butterfly says goodbye. She stabs herself as Pinkerton arrives, calling out for her.
Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers reading this post, especially to mine.
Let’s take a deep breath today and be thoughtful of the burdens moms carry.
Thank you for reading (and listening),
PS. If you missed last week’s selection, we listened to French soprano Sabine Devieilhe sing Ophelia’s Mad Scene from Ambroise Thomas’s opera Hamlet.
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