Madama Butterfly - Synopsis
Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa
The U.S. naval officer Pinkerton, along with a marriage broker named Goro, comes to inspect a house near Nagasaki he has bought to live with the geisha Butterfly, whom he plans to marry according to Japanese law. This law however allows him to abandon his wife whenever he feels like it. He casually brushes off the warnings of the American Consul Sharpless, who has told him that Butterfly takes love and marriage very seriously. Before Butterfly appears, he drinks a toast "to a future marriage with a genuine American woman". Butterfly now appears with her friends, attended by members of her family. Hardly has the marriage ceremony ended when Butterfly's uncle arrives and curses the girl for having renounced the faith of her ancestors. Cast out by all the others, all Butterfly has left is her great love.
Three years have passed. After a brief period of happiness, Pinkerton has left Butterfly. She lives with her servant Suzuki, confidently waiting for her husband's return, although she has not received a single sign of life from him. The consul comes to visit Butterfly. He explains to her that Pinkerton will never return. He cannot bring himself to tell Butterfly that he has married an American woman. Then she triumphantly shows him Pinkerton's child. Sharpless leaves the house after advising her to marry the rich Yamadori who has been courting her. She however feels bound to Pinkerton and refuses. Then the cannon in the harbor goes off. Butterfly recognizes Pinkerton's vessel. Full of hope, she decorates the room and waits in her bridal gown for her beloved.
Morning dawns. Butterfly has been waiting in vain all night. Finally she goes into the next room with the child in her arms to get a little rest. Pinkerton and Sharpless arrive. Suzuki finds out the whole story. Lamenting, she promises to prepare Butterfly for the worst. Full of remorse, Pinkerton goes running off. Awakened by the sound of the voices, Butterfly returns to the room: full of hope she looks for Pinkerton. Suddenly a strange woman appears. Butterfly discovers the truth from Sharpless. As if this weren't enough - they want her to turn over her child. All that remains for Butterfly is death.
English translation by Donald Arthur
© Bavarian State Opera