Bottesini's Amusing Japanese Error

On a trip to the East in 1867, Bottesini headed north from Calcutta for Bodh Gaya. Whether he meant to explore his own connection with the Buddha (he was well aware of the similarities between his name and Bodhisattva), or to learn more about the bodhi tree that was said to have supplied the wood for his bass is unknown.

However, he got lost and ended up in the foothills of the Himalayas, where he was captured by a woman who styled herself the Queen of Nepal (she was more likely a powerful local bandit).

Bottesini mistook the name "Nepal" for "Nippon" -- and was delighted that he'd reached Japan.

He was released when the collapse of the Sepoy Mutiny caused local leaders across the Indian subcontinent to studiously avoid any possibility of provocation against Europeans. His strange and bawdy experience formed the kernal for his opera, La Regina di Nepal -- which to the end of his days he insisted meant "the Queen of Japan." The uncertainty is increased by a number of scenes set in Naples, which also seems to be confounded with Nepal and/or Nippon.

"We all must learn where to place our fingers."
© 1997, Jeff Brooks (