Opera Scotland

Madama Butterfly Madam Butterfly; Madame Butterfly

Music
Giacomo Puccini (born Lucca, 22 December 1858; died Brussels, 29 November 1924)

Text
Giuseppe Giacosa & Luigi Illica

Source
Play Madame Butterfly (1900) by David Belasco (American 1853-1931), and a story by John Luther Long.

Premières
First performance: Milan (Teatro alla Scala), 17 February 1904.
Revised version: Brescia (Teatro Grande), 28 May 1904.
First UK performance: London (Covent Garden), 10 July 1905.
First performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (Royal Lyceum Theatre), 9 October 1907.
Scottish Opera première: Glasgow (King's Theatre), 5 June 1962.

Background
Giacomo Puccini is the only Italian opera composer after Verdi to have established a consistent pattern of producing more than one or two enduringly successful works. His family stretched back several generations as composers of church music. However Puccini decided that his own future lay with opera. For his fourth piece, La Boheme, he at last found a pair of writers willing and able to do as he required, and Boheme and their next two collaborations, Tosca and Madama Butterfly soon became among the most popular operatic works in existence. However Butterfly had a sticky start, requiring editing before it reached its final successful form. It is now recognised as a masterly example of how Puccini invests his work with a highly emotional sense of tragedy, while managing to avoid the trap of over-sentimentality.

Main Characters
Lieut. F B Pinkerton, U S Navy (tenor)
Goro, a marriage broker (tenor)
Suzuki, Cio-Cio-San’s companion (mezzo-soprano)
Sharpless, U S Consul in Nagasaki (baritone)
Cio-Cio-San, a geisha, known as Butterfly (soprano)
The Bonze, Cio-Cio-San’s uncle (bass)
Prince Yamadori (baritone)
Kate Pinkerton (soprano)

Plot Summary
The setting is the Japanese port of Nagasaki, late nineteenth century.

Pinkerton, on a courtesy visit with his ship, has arranged a marriage with a local girl known as Butterfly. He considers it to be nothing more than a holiday romance, while his new wife is far more idealistic and committed to it. Butterfly’s maid Suzuki, and Pinkerton’s guide, the American resident Consul, both look on appalled and helpless as the tragedy unfolds. Butterfly is ostracized by her high-caste family, led by her uncle, and when Pinkerton returns to sea, she is left alone but for Suzuki, and pregnant.

Butterfly settles down to await her husband’s return, rejecting eligible proposals of marriage and being gradually reduced to poverty. When Pinkerton eventually comes back, three years have passed, and he brings with him his new American wife. He proposes to take his Japanese son back to the USA. Butterfly, heartbroken, kills herself.

The Cast

Aunt
 
Bonze
 a priest, Cio-Cio-San's uncle
Cio-Cio-San
 known as Madam Butterfly
Cousin
 
First Cousin
 
Goro
 marriage broker
Imperial Commissioner
 
Kate Pinkerton
 
Lieut. F B Pinkerton
 U S Navy
Mother
 
Official Registrar
 
Prince Yamadori
 
Second Cousin
 
Sharpless
 U S Consul in Nagasaki
Suzuki
 Cio-Cio-San's servant
Uncle Yakuside
 

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