Madama Butterfly


Discover the story of Puccini's Madama Butterfly

Act I

Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton, a young US Navy lieutenant stationed in Japan, has arranged with Goro, a marriage broker, to acquire a 15-year-old Japanese bride, Cio-Cio-San(also known as Butterfly). Pinkerton has taken a 999-year lease on a home overlooking Nagasaki harbour; this lease, as well as his marriage, can conveniently be cancelled at a month’s notice. Sharpless, the American Consuland Pinkerton’s friend, arrives to witness the signing of the wedding contract. He warns Pinkerton not to treat the marriage lightly, as his bride-to-be is truly in love with him. Pinkerton claims to be smitten with Butterfly, but he then proposes a toast to the American woman he will one day wed. Butterfly arrives. She tells Sharpless that her family was once wealthy, but hard times forced her to become a geisha. After Butterfly admits that her father is dead, Goro tells Pinkerton that he committed ritual suicide at the Emperor’s command. Butterfly’s relatives arrive and the formalities proceed. The festivities are interrupted when the Bonze, Butterfly’s uncle, enters to denounce her for forsaking their ancestral religion. Pinkerton angrily orders the guests to leave. He comforts the distraught Butterfly, and the newlyweds proclaim their love.

Act II

Pinkerton has been gone from Nagasaki for three years. Suzuki, Butterfly’s companion, fears that he will not keep his promise to return, yet Butterfly is sure that he will. Sharpless arrives to read Butterfly a letter he has received from Pinkerton, who has since taken an American wife. Goro interrupts, ushering in Prince Yamadori, a potential suitor for Butterfly who she dismisses. When Sharpless finally reads Pinkerton’s letter to Butterfly, she gradually realises that she has been abandoned. She sends for her young son, Sorrow, certain that Pinkerton will return when he learns that he has a son. Butterfly insists that she would rather die than be a geisha again. Suddenly, a cannon booms in the harbour, signaling the arrival of Pinkerton’s ship. Butterfly and Suzuki decorate the house and await Pinkerton’s return inan all-night vigil.


Early in the morning, Pinkerton, his American wife Kate, and Sharpless arrive at Butterfly’s house. Butterfly is asleep, so they ask Suzuki to tell her that they wish to take Sorrow away to live with them in America. Pinkerton flees in remorse. Butterfly enters to discover Kate there and soon realises who she is. She reluctantly agrees to surrender her child if Pinkerton will come for him in half an hour. After bidding farewell to Sorrow, Butterfly takes the only option she feels is left to her. Pinkerton rushes into the house and faces the consequences of his actions.

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