Cio-Cio-San looks to the sea and sings for her American Lieutenant to return to her arms. Three years after he left, she deperately 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.
The American Lieutenant Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton has contracted to marry the geisha Cio-Cio-San, known as Madam Butterfly. Goro, who has arranged the 'Japanese marriage', shows him the house and servants which he has also bought. They are joined by the American Consul Sharpless, to whom Pinkerton explains the easy nature of his various contracts, which he is free to annul at a month's notice. Sharpless warns him to beware of hurting his bride's feelings, but stands by when Pinkerton toasts his future, real wife in America.
The bridal party arrives: Cio-Cio-San and her escort of geishas and all her relations. Introductions are made and entertainment provided for the guests. Cio-Cio-San shows her personal possessions to her husband. She is happy to throw away the relics of her faith but will not discard the sword sent to her father by the Mikado. The marriage ceremony is conducted and the financial details concluded. Despite his efforts, Pinkerton is unable to disperse the relation, until the party is interrupted by the cries of the priest. He has discovered that Butterfly has renounced her faith and publicly pronounces his curse. Furiously Pinkerton drives him and the appalled guests away.
Pinkerton comforts his bride with sweet assurances. His ardent wooing overcomes her timidity, and together they prepare for their wedding night.
Act II part 1
Three years have passed. Pinkerton soon left his new bride. Suzuki believes he will never return, but Butterfly is convinced that one fine day his ship will appear on the horizon. In fact she is right, for Pinkerton really is returning on duty to Nagasaki, accompanied by his new American wife. The Consul Sharpless has been sent ahead to break the news.
On his arrival, he is overwhelmed by Butterfly's attentions. As he prevaricates, they are interrupted by Goro who brings his new suitor for Butterfly, Prince Yamadori. Alone again, Sharpless attempts to read her Pinkerton's letter. Her delight turns to stunned shock, when he asks what she would do if Pinkerton never returned and urges her to accept Yamadori. Her answer is to fetch the child she has born to Pinkerton. Sharpless excuses himself.
The harbour cannon heralds Pinkerton's ship. Cio-Cio-San and Suzuki fill the house with flowers, and settle down to await his return.
Act II Part 2
The night of waiting is past. Cio-Cio-San is persuaded to rest, and it is Suzuki who greets the cautious arrival of Pinkerton, his wife Kate and Sharpless. Kate insists on adopting the child. Pinkerton chooses to leave rather than face his betrayed bride. He gives Sharpless money to pay her off. When Butterfly returns and absorbs the truth, she calmly scorns the money. She informs them that Pinkerton can take the child if he returns for it in half an hour.Finally and utterly alone, she decides to die. She says farewell to her little boy, takes her father's knife, and kills herself, just before Pinkerton returns to collect the child.
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 (except 2 & 9 June at 4pm)
Sung in Italian with surtitles in English (and Welsh in Cardiff and Llandudno)
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, or to pre-order your programme please call 029 2063 5032 at a cost of £6 including p&p.
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Listen to Sophie Rashbrook's expert introduction to Madam Butterfly.
Take a look at Joachim Herz's classic, sepia tinged production.
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