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Puccini, G. (1858-1924)

Madama Butterfly

Composed 1901-1903; revised 1904.
First performed February 17, 1904; May 28, 1904.
Libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica (in Itarian),
after Belasco.

A Summary of gMadama Butterflyh

Act 1
In the 1890fs, at the small house on top of a hill in Nagasaki, Japan, Pinkerton, an officer in the American Navy, has arranged to take a Japanese wife, Cho-cho-san, with the help of an intermediary. Sharpless, the American consul, advises Pinkerton that his actions are hasty. But Pinkerton ignores this advice.
Cho-cho-san is a 15 years old. She was born in a samurai family, but her father disemboweled which ruined the family. She became a geisha. She is pleased at her wedding, and she has secretly become a Christian. But, her relatives, who are Buddhist, sever connections with her due to her conversion. Pinkerton consoles his saddened bride.

Act 2
Since Pinkerton has returned to America, three years have passed. Cho-cho-san believes that he will return. One day, Sharpless visits her with a letter from Pinkerton, but canft reveal the contents of the letter. Because, she looks happy with her child. After Sharpless leaves, Cho-cho-san confirms that an American battleship to which Pinkerton is assigned, enters port at Nagasaki. She waits for his return.
Cho-cho-san has a sleepless night, but her husband doesnft come back. While she and her child take a rest in her bedroom in the morning, Pinkerton and Pinkertonfs grealh wife, Kate, appear in front of the house. Cho-cho-sanfs maid, Suzuki, tells them of Cho-cho-sanfs innocence. Pinkerton is filled with regret, and promptly leaves. He immediately departs leaving Kate to talk to Cho-cho-san. Cho-cho-san gets up, and when she sees Kate, suddenly everything is clear to her. Kate makes an offer to take in Pinkertonfs child, but Cho-cho-san refuses unless he comes to get his child.
Pinkerton unexpectedly reappears. Cho-cho-san has already killed herself with her fatherfs short dagger.

A Comment on gMadama Butterflyh

Giacomo Puccini composed some operas set in various cities around the world. For example, gLa Bohemeh is set in Paris, gToscah is set in Rome, and gTurandoth is set in Beijing. gMadama Butterflyh is an opera set in Nagasaki, Japan. gMadama Butterflyh is one of the most famous operas in the world, so it brings Japanese people great pride. It goes without saying, this opera is popular among Japanese opera-goers. For your information, gCho-choh is Japanese for the English gbutterfly,h hence the title.

Occasionally, I find a strange setting in gMadama Butterflyh in foreign countriesf opera houses. I know that a lot of people donft understand Japanese culture so well.

Japanese are familiar with the music of this opera. We can feel nostalgia from the melody of this opera, because Puccini mixes some Japanese melodies into it. These melodies are famous Japanese ones, for example, gSakura Sakurah and gKimigayo (the national anthem of Japan).h Can you notice them? Listen to the music carefully, or you will miss them.

Cho-cho-san sung by prima donna believes that her husband, Pinkerton, will return. Then, Cho-cho-san sings an aria, gUn bel di vedremo.h This aria got the first prize of Japanese Opera Arias Ranking by NHK (Japanese national TV station).
Cho-cho-san waits for his return, but her husband doesnft come back soon. You probably can feel a sense of sorrow in her aria.

Gluck, C. W. (1714-1787)
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