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Madame Butterfly

In February 1904, Puccini's Madame Butterfly debuted at the La Scala opera house in Milan. Puccini had high hopes for the work: It starred the best singers of the day, the music was impeccable, and he was the leading figure in Italy's music scene:

"The composer was so sure of the opera's success, he piled his whole family into the carriage and, for the first time, took them to a premiere of one of his works. But he didn't count on hecklers, planted by his envious enemies, in the house.

"The breathtaking love duet in the first act was greeted with hissing and booing. At one point, Butterfly's kimono billowed and an audience member yelled out that she was pregnant. The bird calls that greet the sunrise during the second act brought a cacophony of cock-a-doodle-doos, mooing and braying."

Puccini returned La Scala's fee, pulled the production, and rewrote it.

[Puccini was an indifferent student. "He pays no attention," a teacher once noted, "and keeps tapping on his desk as though it were a keyboard."]

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