Thursday, May 13, 2010
Touch Of The Butterfly
I told you I would return
When the robin makes his nest
But I ain't never coming back
These are the closing lyrics for Weezer's Butterfly, a song overtly inspired by Puccini's opera, Madama Butterfly. The song is written from the viewpoint of naval officer B.F. Pinkerton, who chases his fantasy of Butterfly but never intends to actually build a life with her.
The song is from the 1996 album Pinkerton, which was also based on Madama Butterfly. This album was a definite departure from Weezer's 1994 pop-driven self-titled debut, which featured the chart-topper Buddy Holly.
Pinkerton references Japan and Japanese culture from the perspective of an outsider. Singer/songwriter Rivers Cuomo even stated that the album tells of his struggle with his own inner Pinkerton.
Cuomo's love for Puccini is evident even beyond the Pinkerton songs:
* Puccini's lyrics "Everywhere in the world, the roving Yankee takes his pleasure and his profit, indifferent to all risks. He drops anchor at random..." are written on the edge of the CD.
* A map titled Isola della farfalla e penisola di cane (Island of the Butterfly and Peninsula of Dog), featuring a ship named USS Pinkerton, is found behind the album's CD tray.
* In some pressings, an image of what looks like a geisha can be found on the back of the CD jewel case.
The album was a commercial failure when released but endured to become a cult favourite. Pinkerton has since risen in stature and been re-reviewed by the likes of Rolling Stone, Spin Magazine, LA Times, NME and Pitchfork Media. It is now regarded as one of the most important albums of the 1990s. Rolling Stone even added the album to its Hall of Fame.
When Madama Butterfly was first performed in 1904, it was met with hostility. But over time and with some re-working, it went on to become another successful and well-loved Puccini opera.
Looks like Madama Butterfly and Pinkerton both took time to build momentum, but today we can't imagine what music would be like without these great works.