Lyric Drama in three acts by Giacomo Puccini
Libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica
Original version in Italian with subtitles (optional)
MADAMA BUTTERFLY ( Cio-Cio-San) , soprano
Miki MORI, Hiroko MORITA, Meeta RAVAL
Andreea IFTIMESCU, Liliana MATTEI
* Final cast still to be determined, this list is based on our last production.
While on board the USS Abraham Lincoln ship in Nagasaki, FB Pinkerton, an officer of the American navy, and Cio-Cio-San, a young Japanese geisha known as Butterfly, fall in love and marry. When he has to return to the United States she waits for him for three years, even though family and friends tell her that he will not return. During that time she raises her son alone, who was born after Pinkerton left. At the end of three years, Pinkerton finally returns, and brings with him his new and legitimate American wife Kate. They come to pick up the child to raise him in the United States, and that is when disaster strikes....
In Nagasaki in the early XX century.
A Japanese house set amidst the gardens of a hill.
Goro, the marriage broker, leads the United States Navy official FB Pinkerton through different rooms while describing its amenities.
Goro claps and Suzuki and two servants appear, with a submissive and ceremonious salute to the American. The only one that speaks is Suzuki who is chosen as maid of future housewife, whose excessive locualidad causes some discomfort in Pinkerton. Goro dismisses them. Pinkerton welcomes his country's consul Sharpless, who ascends the hill. Pinkerton tells him that -according to Japanese law- he purchased the house for 999 years, but the contract can be terminated at any time. Goro offers them drinks. The two Americans celebrate a toast to the intrepid young officer, owner of the world who finds every kind of adventure everywhere. The Consul makes a light reflection: has he not gone too far this time in his youthful lightness? Pinkerton naughtily laughs. He awaits the happiness of a tender love. He has , too, acquired a wife for 999 years -according to the Japanese law- and may leave her at any time, if he becomes bored with her.
While a few bars of the national anthem plays they both toast to the United States. The matchmaker Goro, rushes announcing the arrival of the bride, who wanted to make a grand entrance, accompanied by relatives and friends who annoy Pinkerton with their constant chatter. Butterfly introduces herself to Pinkerton, who asks her some questions; she says that despite her noble family background, has been forced to work as a geisha because of her financial ruin. She is now considered almost an old woman because she is already fifteen years old. The consul himself and even Pinkerton are impressed by the simplicity and beauty of the girl.
Now the imperial commissioner arrives as well as the official registrar. Pinkerton laughs at the picturesque scenes they are witnessing, but Sharpless reminds him that Butterfly is taking the ceremony seriously. Pinkerton addresses who is now legally his wife and she sweetly asks permission to get into the house her personal memories. The bride removes some items from her sleeves and delivers them to Suzuki for safekeeping. Pinkerton observes with curiosity. The last item is an elongated case that the young girl manipulates with certain mystery. Goro takes advantage of a moment when Butterfly has moved aside to reveal the secret: it is a dagger sent to Butterfly's father by the Mikado to go though hara-kiri. Butterfly continues talking to Pinkerton and confesses that, out of love for him, has been on a mission and has converted to Christianity.
The wedding ceremony is finally verified and Butterfly, enchanted, signs the marriage certificate, noting that her friends should not call her Madama Butterfly, but Madame BF Pinkerton. They all toast; suddenly they hear someone arriving, Butterfly’s uncle, a Buddhist bonze, who faces his niece and covers her with insults for having renounced her faith and become a Christian. He curses her loudly. Pinkerton forcefully throws the priest and his entourage out of his house. However, for a long while the shouted reproaches are heard: « Ti renneghiamo! » (You're disowned!). Pinkerton tries to calm Butterfly. The night falls.
Three years have passed. After spending a few months with Butterfly, Pinkerton abandons her. Butterfly lives alone in the house on the hill with Suzuki and the child born after the departure of his father and who’s existence he knows nothing about. Before leaving he left her the house and a substantial sum of money that allowed her to live without problems, but now the money is almost spent and Butterfly still has no news about her husband's whereabouts. The American consul, Sharpless, accompanied by Goro, who is snooping around, arrive to the house, because there is a rich Japanese prince ,Yamadori, who has fallen in love with this Butterfly and is paying Goro to favour him to the girl. She always receives Goro with an ill-intemperate face and does not accept his proposals. Sharpless brings a letter from Pinkerton, but when she tries to read it, Butterfly, seized by the huge excitement, interruptes him at every turn; the poingancy of the love and faith from the girl make a dent in the consul, who does not know how to break to her the news that Pinkerton has married and has no intention of returning to her but will soon arrive to Nagasaki. Butterfly asks the consul when do robins nest in America, because Pinkerton promised to return at that time. Sharpless confesses to Butterfly that he does not know ornithology and she only understands that the consul does not know the answer.
Then Prince Yamadori arrives, and although he is received with kindness, Butterfly categorically rejects his marriage proposal with the resulting dissapointment from Goro who tries to explain the invalidity of her marriage to the American; she thinks otherwise because she knows that in the United States you can not divorce the woman just by throwing her out of the home like in Japan. She orders Suzuki to serve the tea, interrupting Sharpless who tries to explain how inaccurate that statement is.
Yamadori leaves and then finally Sharpless gets Butterfly to hear the letter, but half way she keeps interrupting him. The Consul enraged asks her what will she do if Pinkerton does not return; she responds with strange tranquility that whe would sing in the streets to live poorly or even better she would commit suicide. Sharpless advises her on the union with Yamadori, but Butterfly offended and forgetting her courtesy invites the consul to leave the house. Later, she apologizes and asks him what is the real possibility that Pinkerton forgets her, and telling him of the result of their union, a child that neither consul nor Pinkerton knew nothing about. Sharpless leaves upset by the discovery and promises to tell the sailor.
Suzuki enters the scene, why was following Goro in the garden; the two women are left alone when they realize the arrival of a ship to the port when they hear a cannon: the frigate Abraham Lincoln of Pinkerton. The wait on the expected return begins, and even Suzuki starts to believe it.
Morning comes, and Pinkerton has not yet appeared. Suzuki wakes up with a start and persuades Butterfly to go to get some rest with her child. Later Pinkerton and the consul arrive, who want to talk privately with Suzuki so that between all of them get to persuade Butterfly to give up her son to the married couple of Pinkerton and Kate, his new wife. Suzuki enters the house and promises Kate to intercede so that Butterfly suffers as little as possible and gives away her child. Meanwhile Sharpless reprimands Pinkerton on his past attitude, while he does not dare to confront Butterfly himself, full of remorse and despair.
Suddenly Butterfly enters and seeing the tension in everyone, understands the situation, specially when she sees Kate in the garden. She introduces herself and Butterfly promises to deliver the child if Pinkerton himself comes to find her.
Kate and the consul leave and Butterfly instructs Suzuki to care for the child and leave her alone. Suzuki does not want to obey her, as she knows that she intends to commit suicide. And so it is, the Japanese girl takes her father’s knife reading the inscription that recommends to "die when you can not live without honour." But then the child enters the room and stops Butterfly for a moment of her intention. She hugs him and asks him to never forget her; then she sends him out to play and hiding behind a screen she commits Hara-Kiri. With her last strength she crawls to her son one last time. From outside the shouting from Pinkerton can be heard, who rushes into the house just as Butterfly is agonizing. Sharpless picks up the child; Pinkerton weeps bitterly over the dead body of his faithful Japanese wife.