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Madama Butterfly

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Madama Butterfly
Opera by Giacomo Puccini
Original 1904 poster by Adolfo Hohenstein
Based on
17 February 1904 (1904-02-17)
La Scala, Milan

Madama Butterfly (Italian pronunciation: [maˈdaːma ˈbatterflai]; Madame Butterfly) is an opera in three acts (originally two) by Giacomo Puccini, with an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa.

It is based on the short story "Madame Butterfly" (1898) by John Luther Long, which in turn was based on stories told to Long by his sister Jennie Correll and on the semi-autobiographical 1887 French novel Madame Chrysanthème by Pierre Loti.[1][2][3] Long's version was dramatized by David Belasco as the one-act play Madame Butterfly: A Tragedy of Japan, which, after premiering in New York in 1900, moved to London, where Puccini saw it in the summer of that year.[4]

The original version of the opera, in two acts, had its premiere on 17 February 1904 at La Scala in Milan. It was poorly received, despite having such notable singers as soprano Rosina Storchio, tenor Giovanni Zenatello and baritone Giuseppe De Luca in lead roles. This was due in part to a late completion by Puccini, which gave inadequate time for rehearsals. Puccini revised the opera, splitting the second act in two, with the Humming Chorus as a bridge to what became Act III, and making other changes. Success ensued, starting with the first performance on 28 May 1904 in Brescia.[5]


Solomiya Krushelnytska as Butterfly, c. 1904

Puccini wrote five versions of the opera. The original two-act version,[6] which was presented at the world premiere at La Scala on 17 February 1904, was withdrawn after the disastrous premiere. Puccini then substantially rewrote it, this time in three acts. This second version[7] was performed on 28 May 1904 in Brescia, where it was a great success, with Solomiya Krushelnytska as Cio-Cio-san. It was this second version that premiered in the United States in 1906, first in Washington, D.C., in October, and then in New York in November, performed by Henry Savage's New English Opera Company (so named because it performed in English-language translations).[citation needed]

In 1906, Puccini wrote a third version,[8] which was performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York on 11 February 1907. Later that year, Puccini made several changes in the orchestral and vocal scores, and this became the fourth version.[9]

Again in 1907, Puccini made his final revisions to the opera in a fifth version,[10][11] which has become known as the "Standard Version" and is the one which is most often performed today. However, the original 1904 version is occasionally performed, such as for the opening of La Scala's 2016–17 season, on 7 December 2016, with Riccardo Chailly conducting.[12]

Performance history[edit]

Premieres of versions of Madama Butterfly in major opera houses throughout the world include the Teatro de la Opera de Buenos Aires on 2 July 1904, under Arturo Toscanini, this being the first performance in the world outside Italy. Its first performance in Britain was in London on 10 July 1905 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, while the first US performance was presented in English on 15 October 1906, in Washington, D.C., at the Columbia Theater. The first performance in New York took place on 12 November of the same year at the Garden Theatre.[13] The Metropolitan Opera first performed the opera on 11 February 1907 under the supervision of the composer with Geraldine Farrar as Cio-Cio-San, Enrico Caruso as Pinkerton, Louise Homer as Suzuki, Antonio Scotti as Sharpless, with Arturo Vigna conducting;[14] Madama Butterfly has since been heard virtually every season at the Met except for a hiatus during World War II from 1942 through 1945 due to the hostilities between the United States and Japan. The first Australian performance was presented at the Theatre Royal in Sydney on 26 March 1910, starring Amy Eliza Castles.[15]

Between 1915 and 1920, Japan's best-known opera singer Tamaki Miura won international fame for her performances as Cio-Cio-San. A memorial to this singer, along with one to Puccini, can be found in the Glover Garden in the port city of Nagasaki, where the opera is set.[16]


Roles, voice types, premiere cast
Role Voice type Premiere cast, 17 February 1904
Conductor: Cleofonte Campanini[17]
Brescia cast, 28 May 1904
Conductor: Cleofonte Campanini[18]
Cio-Cio-San (Madama Butterfly) soprano Rosina Storchio Solomiya Krushelnytska
Suzuki, her maid mezzo Giuseppina Giaconia Giovanna Lucaszewska [fr]
B.F. Pinkerton, Lt. in the U.S. Navy[19]: 73–4  tenor Giovanni Zenatello Giovanni Zenatello
Sharpless, U.S. consul at Nagasaki baritone Giuseppe De Luca Virgilio Bellatti [fr]
Goro, a matchmaker tenor Gaetano Pini-Corsi [fr] Gaetano Pini-Corsi
Prince Yamadori baritone Emilio Venturini Fernando Gianoli Galletti
The Bonze, Cio-Cio-san's uncle bass Paolo Wulman [fr] Giuseppe Tisci-Rubini
Yakusidé, Cio-Cio-san's uncle bass Antonio Volponi Fernando Gianoli Galletti
The Imperial Commissioner bass Aurelio Viale Luigi Bolpagni
The Official Registrar bass Ettore Gennari Anselmo Ferrari
Cio-Cio-san's mother mezzo Tina Alasia Serena Pattini
The aunt soprano ? Adele Bergamasco
The cousin soprano Palmira Maggi Carla Grementieri
Kate Pinkerton mezzo Margherita Manfredi Emma Decima
Dolore ("Trouble"), Cio-Cio-san's son silent Ersilia Ghissoni Ersilia Ghissoni
Cio-Cio-san's relatives and friends and servants


Act 1[edit]

Set design by Bailly and Jambon for Act I in the 1906 production

In 1904, a U.S. naval officer named Pinkerton rents a house on a hill in Nagasaki, Japan, for himself and his soon-to-be wife, "Butterfly". Her real name is Cio-Cio-San (from the Japanese word for "butterfly" (蝶々, chōchō, pronounced [tɕoꜜːtɕoː]); -san is a plain honorific). She is a 15-year-old Japanese girl whom he is marrying for convenience, and he intends to leave her once he finds a proper American wife, since Japanese divorce laws are very lax. The wedding is to take place at the house. Butterfly had been so excited to marry an American that she had earlier secretly converted to Christianity. After the wedding ceremony, her uninvited uncle, a bonze, who has found out about her conversion, comes to the house, curses her and orders all the guests to leave, which they do while renouncing her. Pinkerton and Butterfly sing a love duet and prepare to spend their first night together.

Act 2[edit]

Butterfly and her son 'Trouble' (Dolore) in 1917

Three years later, Butterfly is still waiting for Pinkerton to return, as he had left shortly after their wedding. Her maid Suzuki keeps trying to convince her that he is not coming back, but Butterfly does not believe her. Goro, the marriage broker who arranged her marriage, keeps trying to marry her off again, but she does not listen to him either. The American consul, Sharpless, comes to the house with a letter which he has received from Pinkerton which asks him to break some news to Butterfly: that Pinkerton is coming back to Japan, but Sharpless cannot bring himself to finish it because Butterfly becomes very excited to hear that Pinkerton is coming back. Sharpless asks Butterfly what she would do if Pinkerton were not to return. She then reveals that she gave birth to Pinkerton's son after he had left and asks Sharpless to tell him.

From the hill house, Butterfly sees Pinkerton's ship arriving in the harbour. She and Suzuki prepare for his arrival, and then they wait. Suzuki and the child fall asleep, but Butterfly stays up all night waiting for him to arrive.

Act 3[edit]

Suzuki wakes up in the morning and Butterfly finally falls asleep. Sharpless and Pinkerton arrive at the house, along with Pinkerton's new American wife, Kate. They have come because Kate has agreed to raise the child. But, as Pinkerton sees how Butterfly has decorated the house for his return, he realizes he has made a huge mistake. He admits that he is a coward and cannot face her, leaving Suzuki, Sharpless, and Kate to break the news to Butterfly. Agreeing to give up her child if Pinkerton comes himself to see her, she then prays to statues of her ancestral gods, says goodbye to her son, and blindfolds him. She places a small American flag in his hands and goes behind a screen, stabbing herself with her father's seppuku knife. Pinkerton rushes in, but he is too late, and Butterfly dies.

Musical numbers[edit]

Act 1[edit]

1. Orchestral prelude.
2. E soffitto e pareti ("And ceiling and walls").
3. Dovunque al mondo ("Throughout the world").
4. Amore o grillo ("Love or fancy").
5. Ancora un passo ("One step more").
6. Gran ventura ("May good fortune attend you").
7. L'Imperial Commissario ("The Imperial Commissioner").
8. Vieni, amor mio! ("Come, my love!").
9. Ieri son salita tutta sola ("Yesterday, I went all alone").
10. Tutti zitti ("Quiet everyone").
11. Madama Butterfly.
12. Cio-Cio-san!.
13. Bimba, Bimba, non piangere ("Sweetheart, sweetheart, do not weep").
13A. Viene la sera ("Night is falling").
14. Bimba dagli occhi ("Sweetheart, with eyes..."). (The long duet continues.)
15. Vogliatemi bene ("Love me, please.").

Act 2[edit]

16. E Izaghi ed Izanami ("And Izanagi and Izanami").
17. Un bel dì, vedremo ("One fine day we shall see").
18. C'e. Entrate. ("She is there. Go in.").
19. Yamadori, ancor le pene ("Yamadori, are you not yet...").
20. Ora a noi. ("Now for us.").
21. Due cose potrei far ("Two things I could do").
22. Ah! M'ha scordata? ("Ah! He has forgotten me?").
23. Io scendo al piano. ("I will go now.")
24. Il cannone del porto! ("The cannon at the harbor!", often known as The Flower Duet).
25. Tutti i fior? ("All the flowers?").
26. Or vienmi ad adornar ("Now come to adorn me").
27. Coro a bocca chiusa ("Humming Chorus").

Act 3[edit]

28. Oh eh! Oh eh! ("Heave-ho! Heave-ho!").
29. Già il sole! ("The Sun's come up!").
30. Io so che alle sue pene ("I know that her pain").
31. Addio, fiorito asil ("Farewell, flowery refuge").
32. Suzuki! Suzuki! ("Suzuki! Suzuki!").
33. Come una mosca ("Like a little fly").
34. Con onor muore ("To die with honor").
35. Tu? Tu? Piccolo iddio! ("You? You? My little god!").


Madama Butterfly is scored for three flutes (the third doubling piccolo); two oboes, English horn; two clarinets in B-flat; bass clarinet in B-flat, two bassoons; four French horns in F; three trumpets in F; three tenor trombones; bass trombone; a percussion section with timpani, cymbals, triangle, snare drum, bass drum, bells, tam-tam, Japanese gong, and 4 "Japanese Bells"; keyboard glockenspiel; onstage "little bell"; onstage tubular bells; onstage viola d'amore; onstage bird whistles; onstage tam-tam; onstage bass tam-tam; harp; and strings.[20]


The premiere in Milan was a fiasco, as Puccini's sister, Ramelde, wrote in a letter to her husband:[21]

At two o'clock we went to bed and I can't sleep one bit; and to say that we were all so sure! Giacomo, poor thing, we never saw him because we couldn't go on the stage. We got to the end of it and I don't know how. The second act I didn't hear at all, and before the opera was over, we ran out of the theater.

Called "one of the most terrible flops in Italian opera history", the premiere was beset by several bad staging decisions, including the lack of an intermission during the second act. Worst of all was the idea to give audience plants nightingale whistles to deepen the sense of sunrise in the final scene. The audience took the noise as a cue to make their own animal noises.[22]

Madama Butterfly has been criticized by some American intellectuals[23] for orientalism. Despite these opinions, Madama Butterfly has been successfully performed in Japan in various adaptions from 1914.[24]

Today Madama Butterfly is the sixth most performed opera in the world[25] and considered a masterpiece, with Puccini's orchestration praised as limpid, fluent and refined.[26][27]



Anna May Wong holding the child in the 1922 film The Toll of the Sea


  1. ^ Van Rij, Jan. Madame Butterfly: Japonisme, Puccini, and the Search for the Real Cho-Cho-San. Stone Bridge Press, Inc., 2001.
  2. ^ Lane Earns, "Madame Butterfly: The Search Continues", Opera Today 16 August 2007. Review of Van Rij's book on operatoday.com
  3. ^ Chadwick Jenna, "The Original Story: John Luther Long and David Belasco" Archived 20 April 2013 at the Wayback Machine on columbia.edu
  4. ^ Groos, Arthur (1994). The Puccini Companion, Lieutenant F. B. Pinkerton: Problems in the Genesis and Performance of Madama Butterfly. New York: Norton. pp. 169–201. ISBN 978-0-393-02930-7.
  5. ^ Carner 1979, p. 21.
  6. ^ Richard S Bogart and Mark D Lew, (eds.) Version 1: Cast of characters and libretto (in Italian), 1904 G. Ricordi & C. and Boosey & Co. and Breyer Hermanos
  7. ^ Richard S Bogart and Mark D Lew, (eds.) Version 2 (Brescia, 1904): Cast of characters and libretto (in Italian), 1904 G. Ricordi & C. and Boosey & Co.
  8. ^ Richard S Bogart and Mark D Lew, (eds.), Version 3: (American, 1906). Cast of characters and libretto in Italian and English, 1906 Milano: G. Ricordi & C.
  9. ^ Richard S Bogart and Mark D Lew, (eds.), Version 4 (Paris, 1907): Cast of characters and libretto in Italian and English, with editors' notes, 1907 Milano: G. Ricordi & C.
  10. ^ Mark D Lew, Version 5: (The "Standard Version") Archived 30 March 2010 at the Wayback Machine, 1907 G. Ricordi & C.: New York – Milan – Rome – Naples – Palermo – London – Paris – Leipsig – Buenos Ayres – S. Paulo. 266 pp
  11. ^ "Madama Butterfly: Libretto". opera.stanford.edu.
  12. ^ "Madama Butterfly – Teatro alla Scala". www.teatroallascala.org. Archived from the original on 5 December 2016. Retrieved 14 December 2016.
  13. ^ "The Savage Innocents", Part 2, The Opera Quarterly, Vol. 19, no. 1
  14. ^ Carner 1979, pp. 79–80.
  15. ^ Radic, Thérèse (1979). "Castles, Amy Eliza (1880–1951)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Vol. 7. Canberra: National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. ISBN 978-0-522-84459-7. ISSN 1833-7538. OCLC 70677943. Retrieved 2 January 2015.
  16. ^ Carner 1979, p. 32.
  17. ^ Casaglia, Gherardo (2005). "Madama Butterfly, 17 February 1904". L'Almanacco di Gherardo Casaglia (in Italian).
  18. ^ Casaglia, Gherardo (2005). "Madama Butterfly, 28 May 1904". L'Almanacco di Gherardo Casaglia (in Italian).
  19. ^ Hopkinson, Cecil. A Bibliography of the Works of Giacomo Puccini 1858–1924. Broude Brothers, 1968.
  20. ^ "Madama Butterfly". Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  21. ^ "Scala, le 11 cose da sapere sul 'Teatro dei milanesi'". Corriere della Sera (in Italian). 7 December 2015. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  22. ^ Arruga, Lorenzo. La Scala. Praeger Publishers, 1975. 153.
  23. ^ Hu, Katherine (19 December 2019). "Classical Opera Has a Racism Problem". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 15 December 2021.
  24. ^ Groos, Arthur (July 1989). "Return of the native: Japan in Madama Butterfly/Madama Butterfly in Japan". Cambridge Opera Journal. 1 (2): 167–194. doi:10.1017/S0954586700002950. ISSN 1474-0621. S2CID 191590132.
  25. ^ "Madama Butterfly". The Opera 101. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  26. ^ "Giacomo Puccini". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  27. ^ "Studi pucciniani. Rassegna sulla musica e sul teatro musicale nell'epoca di Giacomo Puccini. Vol. 5: Dalla genesi delle opere alla ricezione nel film. – Centro studi Giacomo Puccini – Libro – Olschki – Centro studi Giacomo Puccini. Atti". IBS (in Italian). Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  28. ^ Madame Butterfly at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata
  29. ^ "A cinema history". Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  30. ^ "Film Screenings (June 7, 2015)". Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 6 July 2015.
  31. ^ The Takarazuka Concise Madame Butterfly tr. by K. and L. Selden, introduced by A. Groos in Japan Focus 14, 14, 7 (July 2016)
  32. ^ Madame Butterfly (1932) at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata
  33. ^ Clements, Jonathan; Helen McCarthy (2006). "Madame Butterfly". The Anime Encyclopedia, Revised & Expanded Edition: A Guide to Japanese Animation Since 1917 (2nd ed.). Berkeley, Cal.: Stone Bridge Press. pp. 387–388 (print). ISBN 978-1-933330-10-5. OCLC 71237342. Retrieved 17 July 2014.
  34. ^ "お蝶夫人の幻想". allcinema. Retrieved 18 July 2014.
  35. ^ "お蝶夫人の幻想". Japanese Movie Database. Retrieved 18 July 2014.
  36. ^ Madama Butterfly (1954) at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata
  37. ^ Patase, Chutipong (29 November 2018). "สาวเครือฟ้าและมิสไซ่ง่อน ผลผลิตจากละครเวทีแม่แบบ…มาดามบัตเตอร์ฟลาย" [Sao Krua Fah and Miss Saigon product from the original stage play ... Madame Butterfly]. Art & Culture (in Thai). Retrieved 23 August 2021.
  38. ^ Madama Butterfly at Discogs
  39. ^ Rich, Frank (21 March 1988). "Review/Theater; M. Butterfly, a Story of a Strange Love, Conflict and Betrayal". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 January 2023.
  40. ^ Wadler, Joyce (2 July 2009). "Shi Pei Pu, Singer, Spy and 'M. Butterfly,' Dies at 70". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 20 January 2023.
  41. ^ "Metamorphosis From Madama Butterfly to M. Butterfly and Miss Saigon". TheaterMania. 7 November 2017. Retrieved 10 June 2024.
  42. ^ Madama Butterfly at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata
  43. ^ "Stanton Welch – Credits and biography". abt.org. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 5 September 2009.
  44. ^ Cohen, Ian (9 February 2015). "Rivers Cuomo". Pitchfork. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  45. ^ "Japanese Composer Writes Sequel to Madama Butterfly:Jr. Butterfly...no joke. > Opera News > The Met Opera Guild". Opera News. 1 April 2004. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  46. ^ "宮崎あおい主演で「蝶々夫人」をドラマ化...『蝶々さん』". NHK Drama. 19 October 2011.
  47. ^ Cameron Woodhead (4 October 2013). "Theatre review: Cho Cho". The Sydney Morning Herald.


Further reading[edit]

  • Burke-Gaffney, Brian, Starcrossed: A Biography of Madame Butterfly, EastBridge, 2004 ISBN 1-891936-48-4.
  • Groos, Arthur, "Madame Butterfly: The Story", Cambridge Opera Journal, vol. 3, no. 2 (July 1991)
  • Melitz, Leo [de], The Opera Goer's Complete Guide, 1921 version, pp. 238–240 (source of the plot)
  • Mezzanotte, Riccardo (ed.), The Simon & Schuster Book of the Opera: A Complete Reference Guide – 1597 to the Present, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1977. ISBN 0-671-24886-3.
  • Osborne, Charles, The Complete Operas of Puccini, New York: Da Capo Press, 1983.
  • Weaver, William, Simonetta Puccini, (eds.), The Puccini Companion, New York: W. W. Norton, 1994. ISBN 0-393-32052-9.

External links[edit]