Home > Madama Butterfly
|Composed 1901-1903; revised 1904.
First performed February 17, 1904; May 28, 1904.
Libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica (in Itarian),
|A Summary of “Madama Butterfly”
In the 1890’s, 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.
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 can’t 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 doesn’t come back. While she and her child take a rest in her bedroom in the morning, Pinkerton and Pinkerton’s “real” wife, Kate, appear in front of the house. Cho-cho-san’s maid, Suzuki, tells them of Cho-cho-san’s 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 Pinkerton’s 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 father’s short dagger.
|A Comment on “Madama Butterfly”
|Giacomo Puccini composed some operas set in various cities around the world.
For example, “La Boheme” is set in Paris, “Tosca” is set in Rome, and
“Turandot” is set in Beijing. “Madama Butterfly” is an opera set in
Nagasaki, Japan. “Madama Butterfly” 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,
“Cho-cho” is Japanese for the English “butterfly,” hence the title.
Occasionally, I find a strange setting in “Madama
Butterfly” in foreign countries’ opera houses. I know that a lot of people don’t
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, “Sakura Sakura” and “Kimigayo (the national anthem of Japan).” 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, “Un bel di vedremo.” This aria
got the first prize of Japanese Opera Arias Ranking by NHK (Japanese national
Cho-cho-san waits for his return, but her husband
doesn’t come back soon. You probably can feel a sense of sorrow in her aria.
|Gluck, C. W. (1714-1787)
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