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Back in the Day: Madame Butterfly's disastrous debut

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Back in the Day: Madame Butterfly's disastrous debut

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February 17, 1904. Giacomo Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly (Italian: Madama Butterfly) is performed for the first time at La Scala in Milan. Set in Japan, it is based on a short story and play of the same name and tells the tragic love story of a young geisha who falls in love with, and is left by, an American sailor. Madame Butterfly is one of the most popular, most recorded and performed operatic works of all time, but its opening night was a disaster: the audience at La Scala booed the debut performance, unhappy that the second act was far too long and disappointed by a performance that was said to be inadequately rehearsed. Puccini withdrew the work to make minor changes to it and divided the second part into two acts. The reworked Madame Butterfly was presented again in Brescia three months later, where it received rapturous applause.

Also on February 17: first issue of Newsweek magazine is published (1933); The Beatles release Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever in the UK (1967); Kosovo declares its independence (2008)

Born on February 17: Otto Stern (1888), Ruth Rendell (1930), Rene Russo (1954), Michael Jordan (1963), Denise Richards (1971), Paris Hilton (1981), Natascha Kampusch (1988)