Madama Butterfly

8 — 31 May 2015 at Teatro La Fenice in Venice, Italy

7 APRIL 2015
Madama Butterfly, Teatro La Fenice
Madama Butterfly, Teatro La Fenice

An opera in three parts by Giacomo Puccini, Madame Butterfly is a favourite with music lovers all over the world. Based on John Luther Long's short story, Madame Butterfly tells the tale of Ciocio-San, a 15 year old Japanese girl who becomes the bride of convenience of an American naval officer. Puccini first wrote the opera in two acts and it was premiered at the famous La Scala in Milan where it was not a success. He rewrote Madame Butterfly five times in all, and the 'standard version' of this tragic story is the one that is most often seen today, though occasionally the successful second version from 1904 is performed.

The Story

Nagasaki 1904. An innocent young Japanese girl who is taken as a bride by Pinkerton, an American naval officer. Thinking that Pinkerton will take her with him to America she falls in love with him. Pinkerton leaves without her but returns to Japan and tracks her down several years later. Butterfly has secretly given birth to his son and Pinkerton's wife Kate agrees to raise the child. Butterfly is distraught. On seeing how much care she has put into decorating the house for his return Pinkerton admits he has made a mistake and rushes to Butterfly. However he is too late, Butterfly has killed herself.

Act 1

Pinkerton, an American naval officer arrives in Japan and buys a small house in Nagasaki for 999 years with the right to cancel the agreement monthly. With the help of marriage broker Goro he is wed to Ciocio-San, 'Butterfly' in Japanese. It is a marriage of convenience as he fully intends to find an American wife as divorce in Japan is simple. Butterfly has secretly converted to Christianity, believing herself to be truly married. Her uncle doesn't approve and comes to the house and curses the newlyweds. Butterfly and Pinkerton prepare for their first night of marriage.

Act 2

It is three years later. Butterfly is still in Japan waiting for Pinkerton to return to her even though her maid Suzuki tells her that he will not, and even though Goro the marriage broker is trying to get her to remarry. Sharpless, a US Consul comes to the house with a letter from Pinkerton saying that he is returning to Japan. Before he can finish telling Butterfly the contents of the letter she becomes excited and tells him that she had a son by Pinkerton after his departure from Japan. While Suzuki and and the child sleep, Butterfly stays up all night, watching as Pinkerton's ship arrives.

Act 3

Pinkerton arrives at the house with Sharpless and his new American wife Kate, who has agreed to raise the child. Butterfly runs out in distress, though when Pinkerton sees the care she has taken in preparing for his return he realises the terrible mistake he has made. Butterfly agrees to allow Pinkerton and Kate to raise her child on the condition that Pinkerton comes alone to the house to see her. When he arrives she blindfolds him and places an American flag in his hand before going behind a screen. She then commits hara-kiri using her father's knife. Pinkerton runs in but he is too late.