Cio-Cio-San looks to the sea and sings for her American Lieutenant to return to her arms. Three years after he left, she desperately holds on to the hope that she will see him again. Then he returns, but with his new American wife Kate, and they have come for her son...
The tragedy that follows is what makes Cio-Cio-San's tale the most heart-rending in Italian opera. Her aria 'One fine day' shows how Puccini masterfully employs every note to immerse his audience in her tragic story.
Joachim Herz's classic, sepia tinged production is like a beautiful old photograph. It is a nostalgic glimpse of a vanished world. Madam Butterfly promises a moving, breathtaking evening at the theatre.
Supported by WNO Sponsors' Group.
"Makes me cry every time!"
"Outstanding performance tonight, cried throughout second half, wonderful! Thank you all."
The action takes place in a house overlooking Nagasaki between 1889 and 1892, just before the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war.
Lieutenant Pinkerton of the United States Navy has taken out a 999-year lease on a house near Nagasaki, where he intends to live with his bride-to-be, a young geisha girl called Cio-Cio-San, or Madam Butterfly. The marriage-broker, Goro, shows him the house while wedding preparations get underway. Pinkerton revels in the quaintness of Japanese marriage contracts, under which the husband’s absence for an extended period, even so short a time as a month, constitutes a divorce. He ignores the attempts of the American Consul, Sharpless, to warn him that Cio-Cio-San is taking the marriage seriously.
Cio-Cio-San arrives with a crowd of friends and relations and shows Pinkerton her few but treasured belongings. It emerges that she comes from a noble but poverty-stricken family and has had to earn her living as a geisha. Her father committed suicide on the orders of the emperor. The marriage ceremony takes place but the celebrations are interrupted by the arrival of the Bonze, the high-priest, who denounces Cio-Cio-San for converting to Christianity. Her family and friends turn on her and reject her.
Cio-Cio-San is left alone with Pinkerton. He comforts her and she assures him that he is all that matters and rejoices in her love for him.
Act II part 1
Pinkerton has been gone for nearly three years and no word has been heard from him. Cio-Cio-San and her devoted servant Suzuki are still living in the house that he bought but have almost no money left. Scorning Suzuki’s doubts, Cio-Cio-San is convinced that Pinkerton will return and turns down the marriage offer of the wealthy Prince Yamadori.
Sharpless has had a letter from Pinkerton, saying that he is coming back to Nagasaki with an American wife, and asking him to break the news to Cio-Cio-San. She refuses to listen to him and, when Sharpless tries to persuade her to accept Yamadori, shows him the child she has had by Pinkerton. Sharpless cannot bring himself to deliver his message and leaves her as the harbour cannon is heard, signalling the arrival of Pinkerton’s ship, the Abraham Lincoln. As night comes, Suzuki and Butterfly settle down to wait.
Act II Part 2
Dawn breaks and Cio-Cio-San is still waiting. Suzuki persuades her to go and rest. Pinkerton and Sharpless arrive with Pinkerton’s new wife, Kate, intending to adopt the child. Pinkerton, belatedly realizing the extent of Cio-Cio-San’s devotion, is unable to face her and gives Sharpless money to pay her off. Cio-Cio-San wakes to find a strange woman in her house and finally accepts the truth.
She agrees to give up her child on condition that Pinkerton comes in person to fetch him. Left alone, she takes a last farewell of her son and kills herself.
Conductor Simon Phillippo
Director Joachim Herz
Revival Director Caroline Chaney
Designer Reinhart Zimmermann
Costume Designer Eleonore Kleiber
Lighting Designer John Waterhouse
Lighting realised on tour by Benjamin Naylor
Chorus Master Stephen Harris
Musical Preparation Russell Moreton
Staff Director Angharad Lee
Language Coach Matteo dalle Fratte
Stage Manager Suzie Erith
Production Manager Richard Norton
Lieutenant B F Pinkerton Gwyn Hughes Jones
Goro a marriage broker Phillip Lloyd Holtam
Suzuki Claire Bradshaw
Sharpless the American Consul Alan Opie
Cio-Cio-San (Madam Butterfly) Judith Howarth
Her Cousin Helen Greenaway
Her Mother Emma Mary Llewellyn
Yakuside her uncle George Newton-Fitzgerald
Her Aunt Carolyn Jackson
The Imperial Commissioner Stephen Wells
The Official Registrar Jack O'Kelly
The Bonze Julian Close
Prince Yamadori Alastair Moore
Kate Pinkerton Sian Meinir
Nephew Cousin's child Daniel Blasizza/Johnny Robinson
Trouble Cio-Cio-San's child Jacob Adams/Dylan Sullivan
Servant and Cook Derek Tilley and David Tilley
Chorus of Geishas, Cio-Cio-San's relations, monks, servants of Prince Yamadori and sailors
All performances start at 7.15pm
Sung in Italian with surtitles in English
Running time approximately 2 hours 40 minutes including one interval
We have launched a new style of programme to reflect the company's themed seasons. You can purchase the combined programme for Lohengrin, Wagner Dream and Madam Butterfly for £5 on the night.