Finding Puccini's Music Box - 92Y, New York

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Finding Puccini's Music Box

W. Anthony Sheppard
Finding Puccini

Scholars have long sought the source for two major themes in Madama Butterfly.

One is associated with Butterfly herself and the second with her patrimony. The assumption has been that Puccini, attempting to achieve exotic authenticity, based these themes on Japanese melodies.

But Professor W. Anthony Sheppard has discovered a different theory: Puccini's source for these themes was a Swiss-made music box playing Chinese tunes. Evidence indicates that Puccini may have handled this very artifact and specific moments in the opera indicate he was aware of the Chinese titles. The sound of music boxes is evident throughout Butterfly and Turandot and this discovery reveals unnoticed connections between these two beloved operas.

W. Anthony Sheppard

W. Anthony Sheppard is Marylin and Arthur Levitt Professor of Music at Williams College, where he teaches courses in twentieth-century music, opera, popular music, and Asian music …

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