The way an opera ends can be as important as how it begins. I'm not talking about the performance itself, although an opera that ends on a sour note (literally) can leave a bad taste in the mouth. No, I'm talking about the actual ending as written by the composer. I've written before about how for all his genius, Mozart got it wrong with the anticlimactic finale to Don Giovanni. On the other hand, a powerful conclusion can favorably color an entire piece - as much as I liked Nixon in China, for example, I thought the final aria ("How much of what we did was good?") was absolutely stunning.
Here's a look at one of the great finales in opera, the tragic conclusion to Puccini's magnificent Madama Butterfly, with Patricia Racette. Patrick Summers is conducting the Metropolitan Opera in this performance from a few seasons back. There's a joke in music circles about Puccini being one's favorite composer of Oriental music. He was Italian, of course, but uses Asian themes to wonderful effect in Butterfly (and Turandot as well), and there's no better example than what's seen (and heard) here. ◙