Madame Butterfly

One of our most popular and beloved operas, with its poignant, instantly recognizable aria Un Bel Di, Madame Butterfly was based on a play by Broadway legend David Belasco, which reflected true events in Nagasaki, Japan, in the early 1890s. After its unsuccessful premiere in Milan, Puccini kept rewriting Butterfly until the fifth (now considered the standard) version. In Puccini’s time the exotic and unfamiliar setting was a point of interest for the opera, which has been adapted into numerous film versions as well as a non-operatic movie with Cary Grant, and the well-known Broadway shows M Butterfly and Miss Saigon. Music from the opera was also featured in the film Fatal Attraction. In the opera, Ciocio-san (whose name means “butterfly” in Japanese), having disavowed all family ties to wed American naval officer Lieutenant Pinkerton in the marriage of convenience common at the time, makes the tragic mistake of falling in love with him. She waits devotedly for him after he leaves, naively believing he will return to her someday, but is shattered to discover when he does come back that he has married an American woman and wants to take his Japanese-American child back to the US. Dishonored by Pinkerton’s betrayal, Butterfly has no choice but to end her own life.

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