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Subject: Final Butterfly Chord (was Re: Booing at the Met)
From: Charles Harrison <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Charles Harrison <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 30 Oct 2017 12:28:42 -0400
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" 'Discordant' is a completely wrong term, by the way. The final chord of Butterfly is 
completely tonal and not at all dissonant in any way."

I think "discordant" is a fine word to describe the effect of that final chord.  It may not be a 
dissonance, technically (nor did Mr. Kane call it one), but it FEELS dissonant.  Certainly 
discordant. 

The brilliance of that final G-major chord in "Butterfly" is that it is, in the context of what 
has gone before - b-flat minor from "Tu, tu, piccolo iddio" on - musically unresolved and 
leaves everything hanging.  Just like the drama.  That final chord tells us, the tragedy is not 
over, it is just beginning - for Pinkerton, for Kate, and for the child.  Butterfly's suicide is 
going to haunt them all for a long time.  (I saw a very effective production of "Butterfly" 
that brought Kate back on at the end to react in horror to Butterfly's death.  Can you 
imagine the Pinkertons' boat trip back to the U.S.?)     

It is a jarring - and yes, "discordant" - effect, enhanced by the harsh-sounding 
orchestration; the concluding G-major tonality conveys just the opposite of the happy 
feeling we usually associate with major keys.  (In this it is similar to the C-major ending of 
the Verdi Requiem, which has to be the most ominous and dread-filled C-major music ever 
composed.  No sunlight and happiness here!)

A lesser composer than Puccini would have ended the opera in b-minor. 

CH

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