Opera by Giacomo Puccini
Opera in three acts by Giacomo Puccini
Libretto Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa
Lieutenant Pinkerton, serving on an American ship at the Nagasaki Port and subject to his favourite infatuation, has decided to marry the 15-year-old Japanese geisha Cio-Cio-San, called by her friends “Butterfly”. The matchmaker Goro has arranged the marriage contract and has hired a small house on the hill for the newly married. The American consul Sharpless, implores Pinkerton to leave this plan, when he understands that Butterfly naively believes that the marriage will be real. Actually, the marriage, as well as the rent of the house, can be terminated with shortest notices.
The lieutenant ridicules the concern of Sharpless, while Cio-Cio-San is arriving with friends of hers, merry and smiling. Sharpless learns that to prove his love for Pinkerton she has abandoned her ancestors’ religion and has adopted the faith of her beloved. Pinkerton finds out that she is daughter of a dishonoured samurai, who has performed seppuku, and this is why it was necessary the little girl to be trained for geisha. The marriage contract is signed and the guests propose a toast for the young couple, when a Buddhist monk (Cio-Cio-San’s uncle) appears and furious with her action puts curses on her. This becomes the reason for the horrified friends and relatives to abandon her. The angry Pinkerton rapidly sends off his guests and they leave. With tender words he consoles the weeping girl and both give themselves up to their love.
In the house of Mme Butterfly. Three years have passed since Pinkerton left. Suzuki has kneed in front of Buddha’s statue and implores him to take pity on Cio-Cio-San, by giving her back her beloved. Butterfly is constantly expecting the return of her husband. Having fixed her look at the harbour, all days long she is sitting with her little son by the window. Pinkerton has promised her to come back, when the morello cherries start blooming, but they are blooming for the third time now, and he still isn’t there. Butterfly is abandoned by all her relatives. Now Suzuki tells her that no foreigner, married to a Japanese, has ever returned. Cio-Cio-San, however, doesn’t believe her words.
Sharpless and Goro appear. The American consul has received a letter from Pinkerton, in which he was asking him to inform Butterfly that he has married. He would soon arrive in Japan, but with his new wife. The young Japanese welcomes Sharpless cheerfully. This disturbs the consul and he doesn’t dare to tell her the content of the letter.
Prince Yamadori appears. He wants to marry Butterfly. The prince offers her riches and a happy life, but Cio-Cio-San refuses. Hurt, Yamadory goes away. Sharpless tries to hint to Butterfly not to give up Yamadori’s hand, but she feels deeply offended by his words. Then the consul asks her what she would do, if her husband doesn’t come back. It becomes clear to her what Sharpless minded with his insisting her to marry Yamadori. She hides her pain and with proudly lifted head she says that then for her it would be better to die. Butterfly fetches her child.
The young Japanese hopes that Pinkerton will come back, if not for her, then for him. Sharpless asks about the name of the little boy and she replies: “Now his name is Sorrow, but if his father comes back, his name will be Happiness.” Deeply moved, Sharpless promises to visit her again.
A gunshot is heard. Excited, Butterfly takes the telescope and looks towards the harbour. A deep emotion seizes her. This is the ship, on which is serving Pinkerton. Butterfly and Suzuki in joyful expectation prepare the house with flowers. They both and the child stand to watch when Pinkerton will appear. The night is coming. Suzuki and the child fall asleep, but Butterfly, tormented with worries, cannot fall asleep.
The sun is rising. Butterfly has been waiting all night long Pinkerton’s return, but he isn’t there. She is still standing motionless in expectation. Suzuki wakes up and asks her mistress to go to bed, by promising that if Pinkerton comes, she would wake her up immediately. Butterfly takes her child and goes into her bedroom.
Soon arrive Pinkerton and Sharpless. At seeing them, the excited Suzuki sets out right away to the room of her mistress, but they stop her. The maid starts telling them how Butterfly expects her beloved, but suddenly she sees an unknown woman in the yard and stops talking. Pinkerton turns to the other side in confusion. Sharpless quietly tells Suzuki the truth – this is Pinkerton’s wife, who wishes to take the child with her. Upset, Pinkerton runs away.
At the door unexpectedly appears Butterfly. She guessed that her husband has come back and wants to see him with joy. Instead of him, however, she sees the young woman. Cio-Cio-San doesn’t need explanations – Suzuki’s streaming eyes and her heart of a woman reveal the truth to her.
Kate Pinkerton begs her to give her the child, but Butterfly replies that she would entrust it only to his father. Sharpless takes Kate Pinkerton away, and Butterfly asks Suzuki to leave her alone.
She tenderly bids farewell to her child and with a ritual knife in the hand enters her room. The only thing, which remains for her, is to perform her father’s legacy – if you cannot live with honour, then die with honour.
She appears one moment later. She hugs her child for the last time and falls on the floor.
Pinkerton rushes into the house and finds the dying girl. The lieutenant calls her name, torn by strong pain and guilt ...