un bel dì, vedremo
My ex reached out to me earlier this week, after two months of no contact. I thought I'd been making good progress in the time away, but upon talking to her again and feeling all the emotions rush back like the tides I realized how fragile and illusory all that 'progress' was. Why do I still wait for something I know will never come? Why can hope only die a slow, agonizingly painful death?
I keep listening to the aria "Un bel dì, vedremo" from Puccini's Madama Butterfly. The aria is tragically beautiful, because Butterfly shows how pure her love is, a love Pinkerton doesn't reciprocate: (lyrics)
Early in act 2, three years after her marriage to U.S. naval officer B. F. Pinkerton, Cio-Cio San ("Butterfly") awaits the return of her long-absent husband to Japan. Her maid, Suzuki, does not believe that Pinkerton will come back, but Butterfly is optimistic. Trying to convince Suzuki of Pinkerton's loyalty, Butterfly sings of an imaginary scene in which a thread of smoke on the far horizon signals the arrival of a white ship into Nagasaki harbour, bringing her long-lost love back to her. The imagined scene culminates in a romantic reunion.
The aria is noted for its lyrical beauty. It is of particular dramatic importance, as Butterfly's yearning expressed in the song is later met with tragedy. Butterfly's longed-for "beautiful day" is heralded at the end of act 2 by the arrival of Pinkerton's ship, but it proves to be her last; Butterfly learns that Pinkerton has married another woman, and at the end of the opera, Butterfly, distraught, takes her own life. "Un bel dì, vedremo" is especially significant as it appeals to audiences with its emotive melody but also encapsulates the tragedy at the heart of the opera, foretelling Cio-Cio San's inevitable demise.
I often see Cio-cio San described as naïve because of her misplaced trust in Pinkerton, a man who never intended to stay with her from the very beginning. And maybe she is, for ignoring all the warning signs and the advice of her maid Suzuki (who tries reading to her Pinkerton's letter announcing his marriage to an American woman). But I think we should instead admire Butterfly for her unwavering loyalty and devotion to her lost love. Wouldn't the world be a better place if we all saw the best in each other and harbored this sort of earnestness and conviction about our commitments? (Or would promises cease to mean anything if they weren't so hard to keep?)
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