The original story and basis for the opera was based on memories of the author’s sister and also a novel that was written by Pierre Loti, the opera was re-written a couple of times and has been a hit ever since. The original is still performed occasionally and was used at La Scala to open the season in December 2016.
The original story begins with a US Naval Officer Pinkerton renting a small house where he intends to live after
marrying a geisha (an arranged marriage of course). He is besotted with her and happily agrees to live with her whilst he is serving in Nagasaki but has hopes of finding an American bride once he returns to the states.
Sharpless, the US consul who is with him, is horrified at his attitude and asks does he love the geisha Madame Butterfly, to which Penkerton replies that she will do for the duration.
The young geisha arrives for the marriage, so excited that she has even changed her religion, which her family find out about and denounce her, leaving the house and not having anything to do with her ever again. Shortly after the marriage Pinkerton leaves to join his ship and go to war, swearing that he will return to his lovely young bride.
Madame Butterfly is still waiting 3 years later for his return, her servant has given up hope, and the marriage arranger is asking her to meet another man for another marriage. But Sharpless arrives with a letter for her from Pinkerton. He has been tasked to tell her that Pinkerton is coming back to Japan and she becomes super excited and starts to say that she has proved them all wrong – he is coming back to her, however the consul has not had a chance to give her the full news – that Pinkerton has remarried. She asks the consul to tell Pinkerton that he has a son with her.
Pinkerton’s ship arrives in harbour and Butterfly spends hours decorating the house but when night falls her servant begs her to go to bed and rest – she is convinced that Pinkerton will not come to her.
As the sun rises Madame Butterfly goes to bed exhausted and sad. Sharpless and Pinkerton, along with the new wife, arrive and Pinkerton, on seeing how much effort has been put into decorating the house balks at facing the geisha and asks Pinkerton and his wife to tell Madame Butterfly that he will not return but wants to take his son with him and he waits in the garden.
As Madame Butterfly gradually understands what is going on and who the woman is, she breaks down and pushes them out of the house, saying that if Pinkerton comes to the house she will release her son to him.
She takes the sword that was given to her on her marriage, blindfolds her son and puts an American flag in his hands, then steps behind a screen and commits harikari to restore honour to herself and her family. Pinkerton enters the house as she dies.
Please check the destinations to see when and where this particular opera is on this year