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8.660078-79 - PUCCINI: Madama Butterfly
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The La Scala Version of Madama Butterfly (1904)

In June 1900, Puccini travelled to London to help with preparations for the first performance of Tosca at Covent Garden. On the recommendation of a friend, he went to the Duke of York’s Theatre to see a new one-act play, Madame Butterfly, which had been adapted by David Belasco from a short story by John Luther Long. Although the composer did not understand much of Butterfly’s "Japanese" accent ("W’en he goin’ ’way, he say in tha’s doors: ‘here’s moaney — an’ don’ worry ’bout me — I come back w’en robins nes’ again!’"), he was much taken by the production, especially the heroine’s silent vigil for Pinkerton. The effect, Puccini later confessed, was like "pouring petrol on an open fire."

Unfortunately, Belasco’s demands over rights prevented access to the play for nearly a year, but well before then, the composer began pursuing other options, writing to his publisher in November 1900 that he was thinking of using Long’s original story to expand the focus of the opera to two acts, one set in North America and one in Japan. Puccini thus conceived Madama Butterfly initially in terms of the contrast between West and East, a pervasive theme in an era of European colonialism, and one whose musical attraction lay partly in terms of contrasting American and Japanese ambiences. When an Italian translation of Long’s story was completed in March 1901, however, it became clear that none of the action was set in North America. The librettist Luigi Illica, however, accommodated Puccini’s desire for variety by using the story’s initial chapters to fashion a "prologue" with a contrasting sequence of characters, beginning with the Americans Pinkerton and Sharpless, then introducing a series of Japanese characters, and concluding with an extended duet for the American hero and Japanese heroine, modelled on the Act I duet in La bohème. Shortly thereafter, Illica sketched a second act with three contrasting scenes, the first and last located in Butterfly’s cottage, the middle one located at the American Consulate in the section of Nagasaki reserved for European residents, noting that "one can take advantage of the villa furnished in European style for some little details to embarrass Butterfly" — an interest in the "comedy" of her failed acculturation still evident in the exchange with Sharpless about the nesting habits of robins.

Puccini’s decision in mid-November 1902 to delete the Consulate scene (in the meantime it had become a separate act) eventually reduced the libretto to two parts, Illica’s prologue, based on Long’s story, and Giuseppe Giacosa’s adaptation of Belasco’s play. Puccini’s score for the La Scala première, finished on 27th December 1903, is distinguished by its richness and complexity. Each of the comparatively lengthy acts opens with a parallel musical structure that reflects Illica’s interest in the action as a private tragedy of the interaction between West and East in fin-de-siècle colonialism. Each act begins with a fugato, then leads to a conversation between characters of the same race and gender (Pinkerton and Sharpless, Butterfly and Suzuki). The principal singer then has his or her major aria of the opera, each in the same metre and key (G flat major). The parallelism is not fortuitous: Pinkerton’s "Dovunque al mondo" presents the heedless sexual adventurism with which he approaches his "pseudo-wedding," and Butterfly’s "Un bel dì" reveals the consequences of his deception. Moreover, the general musical contrast between the Americans and Japanese is alluded to through the citation of the "Star-Spangled Banner" in Pinkerton’s initial aria and the introduction of Japanese officials at the wedding ceremony with "Kimigayo," the Japanese national anthem, as well as through other Japanese melodies, such as "Miyasama," familiar to listeners from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado.

At the same time, Giacosa’s revisions, which reveal a greater involvement with Butterfly’s character, investing her struggle to overcome her abandonment with tragic stature, inspired Puccini to some of his most subtle and intense music. Butterfly’s entrance is unusually protracted, with a variety of melodies drawing attention to her, first as a Japanese woman (to the koto melody "Echigo jishi" ), then as a young bride commenting on the spring-like atmosphere, and finally as a person with an individual motif (before and during her "Siam giunte. F.B. Pinkerton. Giù."). This motif returns in Butterfly’s emotional desire to become Mrs. F.B. Pinkerton in the arietta "Io seguo il mio destino." Above all, Puccini composed Butterfly’s major numbers in Act II with a lyricism that transcends the "comedy" of her failed acculturation. Three moments in particular have a passionate intensity: "Un bel dì," with its famous opening evocation of the ship’s arrival, and Butterfly’s portrayal of the scene — according to the stage direction — "as if it were actually taking place"; "Che tua madre," her terrifying vision of a life as an itinerant performer; and the suicide scene and "Tu, tu, piccolo Iddio." Given the additional riches of the ensembles, it is understandable why Puccini considered Butterfly his "most heart-felt and evocative opera."

Contrary to all expectations, the prima assoluta of Madama Butterfly at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala on 17th February 1904 resulted in one of the great fiascos of operatic history. The opera was carefully rehearsed by the distinguished conductor Cleofonte Campanini, with a cast featuring Rosina Storchio as Cho-Cho-san, Giovanni Zenatello as Pinkerton, Giuseppe De Lucca as Sharpless and Giuseppina Giaconia as Suzuki. Unfortunately, according to the publisher Giulio Ricordi, "the performance in the auditorium seemed as well organized as the one onstage, since it began exactly when the opera did." To this day, it is uncertain whether the première was deliberately sabotaged, either by Ricordi’s publishing rival Sonzogno or by a claque supporting Mascagni, and whether the production itself contributed to the opera’s failure. The low point may have come when simulated bird-calls during the Intermezzo inspired the audience to imitate an entire barnyard. Stunned, the team of Puccini, Giacosa, and Illica withdrew the opera, returning the fee for production rights to the theatre management against its objections.

Madama Butterfly, however, was quickly revised and staged again three months later on 28th May 1904 at the Teatro Grande in Brescia. Campanini conducted, Salomea Krusceniski and Zenatello in the principal rôles, to a wildly enthusiastic audience, which clamoured for seven encores and 32 curtain calls. As the opera continued its triumphal entry into the repertories of the major houses of Europe and America, a production at the Paris Opéra Comique directed by Albert Carré in December 1906 became the basis for the printed orchestral score. Although productions and recordings have traditionally followed that version of the opera, the original La Scala version deserves to be heard in its own right, and the desire to present it in unadulterated form underlies this recording.

Listeners familiar with the better-known "Paris" version of 1906 will discover first of all that its Acts II and III were originally a continuous Act II, with a longer Intermezzo connecting Butterfly’s vigil to the action the following morning. In all, the La Scala Madama Butterfly contains some 130 measures of music that were subsequently deleted. Most notably, in Act I, these cuts included a scene in which Goro presents the Japanese officials and Butterfly’s relatives to Pinkerton, and a drinking song for Yakusidé; in Act II the original Intermezzo is longer and leads into a longer version of Butterfly’s lullaby. Beyond the "new" music to be found in the La Scala version, there are many smaller additions or differences in scoring. These often give the musical action a new or different slant, challenging the listener to rediscover Madama Butterfly, and make a new friend out of an old acquaintance.

Arthur Groos


CD 1

Act I

The period is the present (1904). The scene is outside a small Japanese house, set on a hill overlooking the port of Nagasaki. There is a terrace and a garden, and, in the distance below, the harbour and city.

1 The orchestra introduces Act I with a busy opening theme, followed by a second theme of more overtly Japanese character. As the curtain rises, the obsequious marriage-broker Goro is seen showing Pinkerton the delights of the little house on the hill, and demonstrating the use of the partitions that screen one room from another. Pinkerton is surprised at what he sees, to the delight of Goro, who explains further. Pinkerton asks where the marriage chamber is, and Goro shows how rooms can be made by moving the screen-walls. Pinkerton imagines that the building is fragile, but Goro reassures him of its solidity, and claps his hands.

2 At this sign two men and a woman come in and bow down before Pinkerton. Goro introduces them as Pinkerton’s wife’s servant, a cook and a manservant, naming them as Gentle Cloud, Rising Sun and Wafted Spices. Pinkerton finds the names ridiculous and declares his intention of knowing them by numbers. The first of the servants, Suzuki, remains kneeling and embarks on a long speech, praising Pinkerton’s smile, and citing the sage Okunama on the subject and assuring him that a smile disentangles the web of sorrows. Pinkerton shows impatience and Goro, sensing this, claps his hands again, and the three servants retire at once into the house. All women are alike, Pinkerton remarks, and Goro now expects the imminent arrival of Cio-Cio-San, since all is ready. Goro announces the approach of the wedding-party, the Registrar, the relations, the American Consul and the bride. Pinkerton asks if there are many relatives, and Goro lists Cio-Cio-San’s mother, her grandmother, her uncle, the Bonze, who is not likely to come, and a host of cousins, some two dozen of them. Pinkerton and Butterfly will, of course, provide ample progeny, Goro continues, bowing obsequiously. The voice of the Consul Sharpless is heard, exhausted by the climb. Goro announces the Consul’s arrival, bowing down, and Pinkerton greets him, shaking hands, and telling Goro to see to some refreshment. The view is a fine one, Pinkerton points out; and the place is high up, Sharpless complains, but admires the distant city, the sea and the harbour. Pinkerton claims that the house obeys the stroke of a wand and, as Goro bustles in, followed by two servants with bottles and glasses, explains that he has bought the place for 999 years, with the right to leave it at a month’s notice, Japanese contracts are as elastic as Japanese houses. Sharpless remarks that some have found this profitable. They sit at a table on the terrace to take their refreshment.

3 Pinkerton sings in praise of the life of a roving Yankee, anchoring where he will. He offers Sharpless milk punch or whisky, and goes on to explain how then, one day, he may sail away: life is to enjoy, a view that Sharpless finds a simple gospel, but destroying the heart. Pinkerton, however, is happy to enjoy an arrangement that he has undertaken for 999 years, but which can be abrogated at a month’s notice. They raise their glasses to America, to the continued strains of The Star-Spangled Banner.

4 Sharpless asks if the bride is beautiful, bringing from Goro praise of her beauty, comparable to a garland of fresh flowers, a star with golden beams, and only costing a hundred yen. He offers Sharpless an assortment of such beauties. Pinkerton impatiently tells him to fetch Butterfly and he hurries away. The servants withdraw and Sharpless and Pinkerton sit. Sharpless thinks Pinkerton must be out of his mind or infatuated. Pinkerton sings of his love, or passing fancy, the delicacy of Cio-Cio-San, like a figure on a Japanese screen, a graceful butterfly. Sharpless tells Pinkerton that he has not seen Butterfly, but heard her voice, when she visited the consulate: her love for Pinkerton is sincere and should not be treated lightly. Pinkerton answers that such an idea is natural at the Consul’s age and sees no harm in introducing the girl to the delights of love. He offers his guest whisky and they drink to Pinkerton’s family in America and the latter adds a toast to his future wife, a true American. Goro rushes in to announce the imminent arrival of the wedding-party.

5 The distant sound of Butterfly’s friends is heard, as they draw near. Pinkerton and Sharpless move to the back of the garden, from where they can see the road up the hill. The friends of Butterfly are heard praising the beauty of the scene, the sky, the sea. Butterfly herself adds her own voice to their admiration: she is the happiest girl in Japan, in the world, at the call of love. The procession comes gradually into view, many of the girls carrying different coloured parasols. They see Pinkerton, shut their parasols, and bow.

6 Following Butterfly, they greet Pinkerton, advancing ceremoniously towards him. He remarks on the difficulty of the ascent to the house, but Butterfly declares her impatience to be there the greater. Pinkerton with some irony offers his compliments, which Butterfly ingenuously returns. Sharpless compliments Miss Butterfly and asks her if she is from Nagasaki. She tells him that her family there was once prosperous: no-one ever admits to being born poor and even a vagabond claims noble lineage, but the strongest oaks can be uprooted in storms, and she is now a geisha. Sharpless, interested, asks if she has sisters, but she tells him she has only her mother - a noble lady, Goro adds - now impoverished. In reply to his tactless question, she admits that her father is dead, as Goro looks embarrassed and her companions fan themselves nervously.

7 Butterfly adds that she has other relations and an uncle, the Bonze, a reply that elicits feigned wonder from Pinkerton and admiration from her friends. She admits the existence of another uncle, a drunkard, as all agree, and asks if Pinkerton minds, but it is a matter of indifference to him. Sharpless asks Butterfly how old she is and with child-like simplicity she asks him to guess: ten - no, more than that; twenty - no; fifteen, an old woman. The age for children’s games, says Sharpless, and for sweets, adds Pinkerton, signalling to Goro, who claps his hands for the servants, who run from the house, ready for their orders, which he transmits from Pinkerton. The latter orders candied spiders and flies, birds’ nests in syrup and the most indigestible drink and nauseating titbits that Japan offers. As Goro is following the servants into the house he sees others climbing the hill.

8 Goro now announces the arrival of important officials, the Imperial Commissioner and the Registrar. He runs into the house, as Butterfly’s relatives appear, greeting her friends and regarding the two Americans with some curiosity. The officials follow and stand in the background. Pinkerton takes Sharpless aside and comments on the ridiculous gathering, which no doubt hides his mother-in-law behind a peacock fan, and then on the drunken uncle and the fat, yellow-faced little brat. Sharpless congratulates Pinkerton, who is happy with the girl who has turned his head, but warns him that Butterfly is serious in her affection. Butterfly’s relations express their opinions of Pinkerton, who may not be handsome, but is presumably rich. Her mother thinks he is like a king and her uncle thinks him worth a Peru of money. One of her cousins claims that Goro had offered him to her, but she had refused him. Others find Butterfly’s beauty fading and foretell divorce, while Goro goes among them, telling them to speak more softly. They continue their disparagement: Yakusidé hopes for wine, others for tea, and the child for sweets. Butterfly calls her mother and relatives, childishly instructing them to bow to Pinkerton and Sharpless, and to the officials. Goro has tables brought out, with various sweets, cakes, drinks and tea, with cushions and a table set apart with writing material. The relations and friends look on the entertainment with satisfaction. Goro leads the officials forward.

9 Goro introduces the officials, offering them, in the American way, money from the lieutenant, which is graciously accepted. Butterfly’s relations approach Pinkerton and bow; he bows back. They bow a second time, and he does the same. They bow a third time, and Pinkerton responds, jocularly claiming his back will take no more. Butterfly presents her mother, who compliments Pinkerton as one with all the splendour of a lily. She presents her cousin and the latter’s son. Pinkerton gives the boy a playful slap that makes him draw back in fear, but he is pushed forward by his mother, to greet Pinkerton formally.

10 Butterfly introduces her uncle, Yakusidé, who greets him, as do the rest of the company. Pinkerton thanks them, and to end the matter, shows them the food and drink, turning aside to Sharpless to comment on their stupidity. The relations and friends of Butterfly attack the tables. The servants hand out sake, sweets, pastries, wine and drinks. Butterfly has her mother by her side and controls her greed for food. Sharpless invites the Imperial Commissioner and the Registrar to come forward and meet Sir Francis Blummy Pinkerton. Goro conducts the Consul and the officials to the side table with the writing material.

11 Pinkerton approaches Butterfly, offering her sweets. Embarrassed, she rises, seeking his pardon, her sleeves full of her own few possessions. She takes out some of the precious things she has brought with her, carried in the sleeves of her kimono, neckerchiefs, a pipe, a sash, a little clasp, a looking-glass, a fan, a cosmetic jar. The last of these she throws aside, suspecting Pinkerton’s displeasure. Finally she holds something more precious, not for all to see. Goro, who has reappeared, explains in Pinkerton’s ear that it is a present from the Emperor to Butterfly’s father, with a command that he had obeyed, making a gesture indicating hara-kiri. Butterfly takes from her sleeve some statuettes, showing them to Pinkerton, the Ottoke. Pinkerton examines them curiously, and Butterfly explains that these are the souls of her ancestors.

12 She tells him how she has visited the Christian mission, but her uncle, the Bonze, knows nothing of it, nor her relations: she must follow the god of Pinkerton, to kneel in prayer with him to the same deity and forget her own gods. He has spent a hundred yen for her and she will be careful, making him happy and forgetting her own family. She takes the statuettes and hides them away.

13 Goro has approached the Consul and received his orders. He shouts out for silence. The chatter stops and they all stop eating and drinking and gather round in a circle, Pinkerton and Butterfly in the middle. The Imperial Commissioner announces permission for Sir Francis Blummy Pinkerton of the ship Lincoln, an officer of the American navy, to marry the girl Butterfly, hitherto unmarried and so not divorced, he by his own will, she by permission of her family. At this point Yakusidé and the child are seen with their hands on the cakes, to general scandal. The boy’s mother vows she will not take him out again, while the Imperial Commissioner continues. Pinkerton signs the marriage document, followed by Butterfly, and Goro announces that all is completed. Her friends come forward to sign and to congratulate Butterfly, now Madama F.B. Pinkerton. The officials bring their task to an end and the Commissioner congratulates Pinkerton, who thanks him. He accompanies Sharpless out, the latter promising to see Pinkerton the next day. The Registrar takes his leave, wishing Pinkerton progeny, to go down with the other two to the city, but Sharpless turns with one last word of warning to Pinkerton, who accompanies the three to the path down, waving to them as they move out of sight, passing through groups of relatives and friends who bow to them. Pinkerton resolves to get rid of the wedding guests as quickly as he can, now he is with his family, as he remarks ironically to himself.

14 He mixes a whisky for Yakusidé, one for the road, and gives him the bottle. Yakusidé drinks Pinkerton’s health, while the latter offers drink to Butterfly’s mother, who, he is told, does not drink, and then to the cousins and friends. Yakusidé comes forward, while Goro tells Pinkerton not to encourage him. Pinkerton tells the child to fill his sleeves with sweets and pastries, raising his own glass in a toast, to which they all respond. Butterfly, disliking what is happening, suggests to Pinkerton that dusk is drawing on, but he demands a song from Yakusidé, while Butterfly, annoyed, would like to prevent this, but does not dare. Yakusidé, however, is all too ready to sing.

15 Yakusidé sings his song In the shade of a Keki on the Nunki-Nunko-Yama, the day of Goseki, how many beautiful girls. At Pinkerton’s invitation, he repeats it, breaking off when he sees the child taking the bottle of whisky and about to drink from it.

16 The scene is interrupted by angry cries from the path, at which the company grows pale with alarm. Cio-Cio-San, the voice shouts, abomination. It is Butterfly’s uncle, the Bonze, who makes his appearance, preceded by two porters bearing lanterns and followed by two bonzes. Goro is angry at the intrusion and gestures to the servants to remove the tables, stools and cushions, prudently leaving, muttering in fury. The company gathers together in fear, while Pinkerton, who has risen to see the strange figure, laughing, sits back in his chair. The Bonze stretches a threatening hand towards Butterfly and demands an account of what she has done at the Christian mission. Pinkerton is angry, but the Bonze continues, his question repeated by Butterfly’s relations, scandalized at this revelation of her infidelity. She covers her face with her hands and her mother steps forward to defend her, while the Bonze pushes her back and shouts menacingly at the girl, threatening eternal punishment on her soul. Pinkerton interrupts, impatient. The Bonze, surprised, turns to the guests and tells them to come away with him, leaving the renegade. Pinkerton bids them all be gone: in his house he wants no disturbance and no priest-craft. At his words they all hurry towards the path, to return down to the city. The Bonze and his acolytes take the same path down the hill, leaving Butterfly and Pinkerton alone. She remains for a time, her hands over her face. The menacing voices of her uncle and relatives are heard, as they descend the path, while evening falls.

17 Pinkerton approaches her and gently takes her hands away from her face, telling her not to cry, but she can still hear their curses. Pinkerton assures her that all her family and all the Bonzes in Japan are not worth her tears. She begins to be comforted and kisses his hand, a sign, she thinks, of respect among educated people. The voice of Suzuki is heard, at her prayers, as Butterfly explains to Pinkerton. It grows darker and Pinkerton leads Butterfly towards the house.

18 The evening draws on, he tells her, but she cannot forget what she had heard: now she is alone and a renegade to her faith. Pinkerton claps his hands and Suzuki and the servants come running in. He tells them to shut the house for the night: now they are alone, she says, and with no mad Bonze to worry them, he adds. Suzuki comes to prepare Butterfly for the night. Helped by Suzuki, she makes herself ready, taking off her bridal dress, and donning a white robe, while Pinkerton watches her, rocking in his chair and smoking a cigarette. She muses on her situation, while he has eyes for her beauty. He tells her of his love for her, now she is his alone. Dressed in white, she is like the goddess of the moon. They stand together on the terrace, looking at the heavens. He wants to hear a confession of love from her. She tells him of her initial reaction to the marriage-broker’s offer of an American husband, a barbarian, but when she saw him she fell in love: now she is content.

19 She asks him for a little love, as one accustomed to little, and he kisses her hands, but when he compares her with a real butterfly, she takes fright: in America butterflies are caught and killed with a needle through the body, fixed to a board. That, Pinkerton assures her, is so that they do not fly away. Comforted she looks again at the beauty of the stars, as Pinkerton leads her into the house.

Act II

20 The scene is inside Butterfly’s house. The room is half in darkness, with the screen-doors closed. Suzuki is praying before an image of the Buddha, from time to time sounding the prayer-bell.

21 Butterfly stands in thought, as Suzuki’s prayers continue, begging the gods to comfort her mistress. Butterfly finds the gods of Japan useless: the American god is better, but he does not know where she lives. Suzuki rises and opens the screen-door to the garden, and Butterfly asks her how much money they have left. Suzuki opens a little cupboard and shows her how little they now have: if Pinkerton does not return soon, they will be in the greatest difficulties. Butterfly is still confident, otherwise why should Pinkerton have asked the Consul to continue providing for them or have seen to locks for the house; of course it was to keep away relatives and troubles and keep his wife safe. Suzuki has never heard of a foreign husband who came back again, but Butterfly angrily tells her to be quiet: he had promised to return when the roses bloom and the robin builds his nest. Suzuki remains sceptical, but her mistress is confident. Butterfly asks why Suzuki is crying.

22 One fine day, we shall see smoke on the horizon and then his ship will appear, white in the harbour. Butterfly will wait for him, and will see a little white figure emerge from the city, gradually, as he climbs the hill, revealing Pinkerton. For a moment she will tease him by hiding and then reveal herself, and all will be as before.


CD 2

1 Goro and Sharpless enter the garden. Goro looks at the house and tells Sharpless to go in, before moving off into the garden. The Consul knocks gently at the inner screen-door, calling her name, Madame Butterfly. She corrects him: she is Madame Pinkerton. She turns and recognises Sharpless, delighted to welcome him to an American house, while Suzuki sets a table with material for smoking. The Consul sits down clumsily on a cushion, regarded with amusement by Butterfly, who asks politely after his ancestors, as she signals to Suzuki to prepare a pipe for him. He takes a letter from his pocket, the purpose of his visit, while Butterfly takes a puff at the pipe, before handing it to him. He refuses it, and she offers him American cigarettes, and he takes one, which she lights for him. Suddenly he puts it down and comes to the point of his visit: he has had a letter from Pinkerton. She interrupts him with exclamations of delight, asking if he is well. Suzuki is preparing tea, and Butterfly asks Sharpless if he can tell her when robins nest in America, a question he finds puzzling.

2 She explains that that is when Pinkerton has said he will return. Goro, meanwhile, has approached and is listening to what she says. He laughs at her ingenuous trust in her husband and she catches sight of him and acknowledges his presence, not wanting him, though, to overhear her conversation. Sharpless, in any case, cannot tell her about the nesting habits of the robin, and will not explain the meaning of her husband’s promise.

She tells him that Goro has been pestering her with offers of marriage from various suitors, particularly one idiot. Here Goro interrupts, telling the Consul that the suitor is the rich man Yamadori: Butterfly has been cast off by her family and she is poor. At this moment Yamadori is seen approaching. He is fashionably dressed in European style and is followed by two servants, carrying flowers. He shakes hands with Sharpless, bowing to Butterfly. Goro obsequiously brings him a stool, between Sharpless and Butterfly. She mocks her suitor, whose divorces have left him free, but he assures her that he would be faithful to her. Sharpless expresses his fears of revealing the contents of the letter he holds, while Goro urges the suit of Yamadori, and Butterfly declares herself married by American law, not Japanese, to the increased dismay of Sharpless. American laws, she declares, are different, and magistrates punish husbands who try to desert their wives. She breaks off to tell Suzuki to bring tea. The men can do nothing: Sharpless is worried at her credulity, while Goro says that Pinkerton’s ship has already been signalled. Sharpless tells them that he has come to disabuse Butterfly, whose return with tea cuts short the conversation. She offers tea to Sharpless and, opening her fan, gestures disparagingly at the other two, who now take their leave. Yamadori still hopes for success, but bids Sharpless farewell and leaves, followed by his servants.

3 Sharpless sits down and courteously invites Butterfly to be seated, drawing Pinkerton’s letter from his pocket. She takes the letter, kisses it and holds it to her heart: Pinkerton is the best man in the world. She hands the letter back and prepares to listen to its contents. Sharpless reads out aloud. Pinkerton tells him to seek out that beautiful flower of a girl - does he really say that, Butterfly asks. Three years have now passed - Butterfly interrupts again, in praise of Pinkerton’s accuracy - and perhaps Butterfly no longer remembers him. Again she interrupts, calling Suzuki to witness her fidelity. If she still wishes him well and still waits for him - sweet words, she cries - Sharpless must carefully prepare her for the blow. Butterfly does not understand the import of the words: Pinkerton is coming back, and she is overjoyed. Sharpless puts the letter back in his pocket, cursing Pinkerton under his breath, and asks Butterfly what she will do if Pinkerton never comes back.

4 She pauses, dumbfounded, and then replies with childish innocence, telling Sharpless that she can do two things, return to her life singing to entertain people or, better, die. Sharpless, moved, turns and takes her hands in his, urging her, in a fatherly tone, to accept Yamadori. She withdraws her hands: how can Sharpless give her such advice? He is nonplussed, and Butterfly claps her hands, summoning Suzuki to see the Consul out. Suddenly sorry for her haste, she sends Suzuki out again, and Sharpless apologizes for his cruelty. Butterfly tells him he has caused her great pain. She staggers for a moment, but recovers: she seemed for a moment to die, death like a cloud passing over the sea. She asks if Sharpless has forgiven her.

5 Suddenly resolute, she runs into the room to the left and returns, triumphantly holding her child, something that Pinkerton cannot ignore. She sets the child down on the floor and asks Sharpless if he has ever seen a Japanese child with blue eyes, lips like this, and golden hair. Pinkerton, she tells him, does not know, because the child was born after he left: the Consul must write and tell him that his son is waiting for him and he must hurry home. She kneels by the side of the boy and kisses him tenderly: surely Pinkerton cannot hesitate.

6 Butterfly holds the boy up again: must his mother now carry him through wind and rain through the city and beg, to keep them both in food and clothing, crying out for charity? She imagines warriors passing by, with the Emperor, who, when he sees her son, may make him the finest prince in the kingdom.

7 Sharpless must take his leave, as evening approaches. Butterfly rises and gently offers Sharpless her hand, then putting the child’s hand in the Consul’s. He admires the boy and asks his name. She tells him that today his name is Dolore (Sorrow), but bids him tell Pinkerton that the day his father returns he will be Gioia (Joy). Sharpless promises to let Pinkerton know, and hurriedly leaves.

8 The voice of Suzuki is heard, shouting abuse, and she comes into the room, dragging in Goro, who tries in vain to break away. She tells Butterfly that this scoundrel has been spreading rumours about the paternity of the child. Goro justifies himself, claiming that he has only said that in America a child like this would be an outcast all his life. With a cry Butterfly seizes a knife from the household shrine and accuses Goro of lying. He falls to the ground, calling out in fear, while Butterfly threatens him with death, if he repeats such a lie. She spurns Goro with her foot, and he makes his escape. She stands motionless for a moment, and then puts the knife back, thinking now of her child, to her both a sorrow and a comfort: his father and protector will come and take him away to a far land. At this moment the sound of a cannon is heard.

9 Suzuki sees a warship in the harbour, and Butterfly, who joins her on the terrace, sees that the ship is white and flying the American flag. She takes a telescope from the little table and runs again to the terrace, trembling with emotion, trying to decipher the name of the ship - Abraham Lincoln. In joy she hands the telescope to Suzuki and goes back into the room, her faith in Pinkerton justified, now that her love has come back to her. She picks up her son, giving him a little American flag from among his toys. She tells Suzuki to gather blossom from the cherry-tree. How long must they wait? One hour? Longer, Suzuki thinks. Two hours perhaps? The whole house must be full of flowers, as the night is full of shining stars, Butterfly orders, urging Suzuki into the garden.

10 Must she pick all the flowers, she asks, but her mistress wants all of them, peach-blossom, violet, jasmine. The garden will be like winter, Suzuki complains, but in the house, Butterfly says, it will be spring. They busy themselves decorating the house with flowers: now the long, sad period of waiting and watching is over. Suzuki has gathered all the flowers and helps her mistress, garlanding the room with lilies and roses and scattering petals. Butterfly sits her son down to play, and tells Suzuki to help her prepare herself.

11 She looks at herself in the glass, regarding her faded beauty, and takes rouge for her cheeks, and for her son, while Suzuki sees to her hair. Now the Bonze’s curse has come to nothing and she can be rid of Yamadori. Butterfly asks Suzuki to bring her wedding robe, and holds her child to her, singing to him. Suzuki returns with the obi and the wedding dress, which she puts on: Pinkerton will be delighted to see her as he did on that first day. She tells Suzuki to put a poppy in her hair.

12 She tells Suzuki to lower the screen and makes three holes in it, so that, like little mice, they can watch in secret. The night grows darker and Suzuki closes the door-screen. The three of them remain by the door-screen, in which holes have been made for them to look out. She gives the child his American flag and sits him on a cushion by the screen, with a hole for him to watch through, while she watches through the highest hole.

13 It is night and they patiently await Pinkerton’s arrival, accompanied by the distant humming of unseen voices. Suzuki fetches lanterns for the darkened room, lighting them, before resuming her position. The little boy falls asleep, as does Suzuki, but Butterfly remains watching.

14 In the early morning the lamps have gone out, one by one. Voices of sailors are heard from the harbour below.

15 Birds awaken in the garden. Dawn is breaking and Butterfly leaves her post, waking Suzuki and taking her sleeping child in her arms, and carrying him to the next room.


16 Butterfly’s voice is heard from the next room, as she nurses her child in her arms. Suzuki pities her mistress, and kneels before a statue of the Buddha, then rises to open the screen.

17 A gentle knocking is heard and Suzuki calls out to know who it is. Pinkerton tells her to be silent as he and Sharpless tiptoe in. Suzuki tells them that Butterfly is exhausted after watching all night. In reply to Pinkerton’s question, she tells him that they knew of his arrival, because for three years her mistress has examined every ship that came into the harbour for signs of his return: yesterday they decked the house with flowers. Sharpless, deeply moved, reminds Pinkerton of what he has already told him of Butterfly’s fidelity and love. Suzuki sees a strange woman in the garden and, with increasing agitation, asks who it is. Pinkerton, embarrassed, explains that the woman is with him, but it is Sharpless who reveals the truth: the woman is Pinkerton’s wife. Suzuki, horrified, raises her arms to heaven then falls prostrate on the ground, calling on the holy spirits of her ancestors, now that Butterfly’s sun has set for ever. Sharpless tries to explain that they have sought her out so early in the morning for her help in dealing with Butterfly.

18 Sharpless can offer little comfort but Pinkerton’s American wife will take good care of the child and his future. He tells Suzuki to go out into the garden and bring Pinkerton’s American wife in: better that Butterfly learn the truth. Pinkerton, in some agitation, paces the room, seeing the flowers, smelling their bitter fragrance, and recalling the past. Suzuki is appalled at the proposal of the Consul, while Pinkerton notices now his own portrait. He cannot bear to see Butterfly and tells Sharpless he will wait for him outside, full of remorse.

19 Sharpless reminds him of his earlier warnings, now fulfilled. Pinkerton hands the Consul money for Butterfly and asks him to deal with the matter of the child. He goes out quickly, while Kate and Suzuki come in from the garden. Kate asks Suzuki to persuade Butterfly to trust her: she will be a mother to Butterfly’s child. Suzuki tells her that she must speak to Butterfly alone, she will weep so much.

20 Butterfly’s voice is heard, calling Suzuki. She appears at the door of the room. Suzuki assures her that she has not deserted her post, but tries unsuccessfully to prevent her coming into the room. Butterfly is jubilant: Pinkerton is here, but where is he hiding? She sees Sharpless, but Pinkerton is not to be seen. She then turns to Kate, asking who she is, telling Suzuki not to weep, but she must know whether Pinkerton is alive or not.

21 Angrily she asks Suzuki for an explanation. The fair-haired woman makes her so afraid. Kate is sorry to be the innocent cause of Butterfly’s distress and tries to approach her but Butterfly motions to her to keep away and not touch her. She asks Kate how long they have been married and is told that they married a year ago. Kate offers to look after Butterfly’s child, seeking Butterfly’s pardon. Butterfly wishes her happiness, but will not take her hand, while Kate asks Sharpless if Butterfly has agreed to give up her child. Butterfly has heard and will agree, if Pinkerton comes himself in half an hour’s time. Suzuki escorts Kate to the door and herself goes into the other room.

22 Sharpless offers Butterfly the money that Pinkerton has given him for her, himself deeply moved. She refuses the money, of which she claims to have no need. He tries to persuade her, but she is firm in her refusal. As he leaves, she tells him to return in half an hour, standing with difficulty.

23 Suzuki runs to help her, putting her hand on her mistress’s heart, which beats like the wings of an imprisoned fly. Aware that it is now full day, Butterfly tells Suzuki there is too much light, too much of spring, and bids her shut the door-screen, so that the room is now in half darkness. She asks where her son is, and Suzuki tells her that he is playing. Butterfly tells her to play with him, but Suzuki is at first reluctant to leave her. Butterfly reminds her of the advice she had given the day before, that rest is good for beauty, and again tells her to go, while she rests. Suzuki refuses again to leave, until her mistress commands her to do so. Butterfly lights a lamp before the reliquary, bows and stays motionless, in sad thought. Then, rising, she goes to the household-shrine and takes from it the dagger, kept there in a lacquered box.

24 She kisses the blade and tries the point with her hand, then reads with a low voice the words inscribed on it: "He who can no longer live with honour, dies honourably". She puts the dagger to her throat, but the door suddenly opens, and Suzuki pushes the boy towards his mother, who drops the dagger and embraces and kisses him. She then bids her child farewell, now that he can travel to another land and no longer be troubled by her. She takes the child, turns his head away and puts in his han

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