A scene from Madama Butterfly

Act I

A house in Nagasaki
Lieutenant B. F. Pinkerton of the United States Navy is inspecting the house where he will live with his Japanese bride-to-be, Cio-Cio San (called “Butterfly” by her friends). Sharpless, the American consul arrives and expresses doubt about Pinkerton’s upcoming marriage. Pinkerton makes it clear that this will not be a permanent union, for he has plans to marry an American woman. Cio-Cio San and her relatives enter with Japanese marriage officials, and the consul becomes more concerned when he learns that Cio-Cio San is very much in love with Pinkerton. The festivities are interrupted by the arrival of the Bonze, who is Cio-Cio San’s uncle and a Japanese priest. He curses Cio-Cio San for renouncing her Buddhist faith and embracing the Christianity of her husband-to-be. The wedding guests are shocked and Cio-Cio San is devastated. Pinkerton angrily dismisses everyone and he and Cio-Cio San are left alone in their new home.

Act II

Three years later
Cio-Cio San and her companion Suzuki pray for the return of Pinkerton, who has not come back from the United States. Sharpless enters with news that Pinkerton will soon arrive in Japan, but suggests that he may not return to her. Cio-Cio San remains devoted to Pinkerton and reveals that she has had his child, Trouble. Sharpless leaves, and is determined to make Pinkerton understand the situation. The wealthy Prince Yamadori arrives with an offer of marriage, which Cio-Cio San refuses, saying that she is already married. A cannon salute in the harbour announces the arrival of Pinkerton’s ship, and Cio-Cio San and Suzuki decorate the house and await his arrival.


The next morning
Cio-Cio San has stayed awake all night. Suzuki persuades her to sleep, promising to wake her when Pinkerton arrives. Sharpless enters with Pinkerton and his American wife, Kate. Unable to face Cio-Cio San, Pinkerton rushes away. Cio-Cio San enters expecting to find her husband. Devastated by the realization that the woman she sees is Pinkerton’s new wife, Cio-Cio San agrees to give up her son Trouble to his American father. As she comes to terms with the fact that Pinkerton is leaving her forever, Cio-Cio San decides to commit suicide. She has a heart-wrenching farewell with her small son, and then stabs herself.

(l – r) Adina Nitescu as Cio-Cio-San and Robert Pomakov as The Bonze in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Madama Butterfly, 2009. Photo by Michael Cooper.

This production originally made possible by John A. Cook

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