Puccini’s ‘Madama Butterfly’ Returns to the Scene of a Disastrous Opening

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Maria José Siri, left, and Gerardo Zecchini rehearsing for “Madama Butterfly,” opening Wednesday at Teatro alla Scala in Milan.

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Brescia/Amisano for Teatro alla Scala

MILAN — The last time Puccini’s original version of “Madama Butterfly” was performed at the Teatro alla Scala here, it was over a century ago and it was a fiasco. The opera’s 1904 premiere was met with “grunts, growls, gibes, bellows, sneers,” one observer recalled, producing a “pandemonium, during which it was difficult to hear anything.”

Puccini described the evening as a “lynching” and withdrew the work, vowing never again to perform at La Scala. He hastily made adjustments to “Madama Butterfly,” and a revised version opened just three months later in Brescia, Italy. An…

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