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University of Iowa News Release


Jan. 8, 2006

UI Opera Studies Group Lecture On Puccini's Opera 'Madame Butterfly' Jan. 13

The University of Iowa Opera Studies Group will sponsor a lecture by Larry Hamberlin, professor at Middlebury College, titled "Poor Butterfly: Cho Cho San's Journey from Opera to Popular Song." The lecture is at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 13, in Room 1020 of the Voxman Music Building Room on the UI campus. This event is part of an ongoing Opera Studies Group lecture series and is free and open to the public.

During the lecture, Hamberlin will speak about his innovative work on how European opera made its way into the American popular music realm.  His talk puts Puccini's opera "Madama Butterfly" in its American context, describing in particular the numerous popular songs inspired by the opera. Chief among these songs is Raymond Hubbell's "Poor Butterfly" (1916), one of the earliest tunes to remain a jazz standard to the present day. From a musical standpoint, "Poor Butterfly" and its related songs show how Puccini's music influenced jazz and Tin Pan Alley musicians.

From a lyrical standpoint, Hamberlin explains, these songs illustrate how Americans, uncomfortable with a story in which an American is the villain, recast the characters of Pinkerton and Butterfly in a continual process of revision that softens the original story's troubling political aspects.

Hamberlin received his doctorate in historical musicology from Brandeis University. He is a music historian specializing in the interactions of opera and popular culture in the United States. He has written about Irving Berlin for the journal "American Music" and Richard Strauss's "Salome" for the "Journal of the American Musicological Society." He is an assistant professor at Middlebury College in Vermont, where he teaches courses on classical and popular music, and he is writing a book on the intersections of opera and popular American culture.

The University of Iowa Opera Studies Group, part of UI International Programs, was established in 1999 as a forum to foster the study of opera and related genres from interdisciplinary perspectives. The group's purpose is to bring together scholars who have a special expertise or interest in opera to share their views on various issues associated with research and performance of operatic works. For more information, visit:

For more information on the series or special accommodations to attend any of the lectures, contact Roberta Marvin, Opera Studies Group co-director, at 319-335-4034 or

International Programs enables UI students, faculty, staff and the public to learn from and about the world. Its offices, degree programs and events provide life-changing opportunities on campus and abroad, heighten intellectual and cultural diversity, and give all University constituents access to vital international knowledge. For more information, visit or call 319-353-2700. International Programs is part of the Office of the Provost.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Lois Gray, 319-335-2026,; Program: Roberta Marvin, 319-335-4034.