Richard Aldrich in The New York Times:
Puccini’s latest opera was produced at the Metropolitan Opera House last evening for the first time under the most brilliant and favorable circumstances. There was an enormous audience, and the composer, who had himself superintended the production, appeared upon the stage and was acclaimed with every demonstration of enthusiasm and recalled time and again. . . .
Puccini has wrought his music into the very substance and spirit of the drama. It is his subtlest and most highly finished score, and denotes an advance over his previous operas in the matter of fine detail as well as the powerful effect of the orchestration and the manipulation and development of his themes. In specifically musical invention “Madama Butterfly” may stand below “La Bohème” and “Manon Lescaut,” but he has attained a finer treatment in it, even though his general method has not changed. His use of local color compels admiration for its skill and sincerity, as well as for its restraint; for a excess would soon weary and offend. The several Japanese tunes he employs are unmistakable in their character, but they bring no ugly and jarring element into the score. It is not easy to avoid the suggestion of the burlesque in the introduction of Oriental measures, but Puccini has, in truth, dignified and at times even ennobled them. So with the strain of “The Star Spangled Banner,” which he brings in from time to time as a suggestion of the Americanism of his Americans, and which is by no means the uncouth intrusion that it might be.
On this day in 1859 Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera premiered in Napoli.
Birthday anniversaries of composer Giovanni Pacini (1796), conductor Vincenzo Bellezza (1888), contralto Gertrud Wettergren (1897), soprano Marjorie Lawrence (1909), conductor and composer René Leibowitz (1913), baritone Luis Sagi-Vela (1914), soprano and writer Margaret Truman (1924) and composer Lee Hoiby (1926).
Happy 92nd birthday to Dame Patricia Routledge.