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Madama Butterfly

Giacomo Puccini 1858–1924

A Japanese tragedy in 2 acts
Libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa & Luigi Illica
First performed February 17 1904, La Scala Milan

Sung in Italian with German & English surtitles  

Introduction (on video, in German) will appear here and on YouTube not long before opening night

This is the first new production of Puccini's »Japanese Tragedy« at Oper Franfurt for 20 years. The world premiere in Milan in 1904 was not a success. Puccini withdrew the score. This second version, and he went on to make other changes, seen for the first time a few months later in Brescia, laid the foundations for the opera's triumphal march.

It's about the geisha Cio-cio-san, known as Butterfly, from Nagasaki. The US American marine officer Pinkerton gets romantically involved with her, making a commitment he considers a mere marriage of convenience, to which he no longer feels bound once he has left the country. For Cio-cio-san, however, their union was for life. When Pinkerton returns a few years later and Butterfly finds out that he has married another woman, who wants to adopt her child, she takes her life. She does this by following in her father's footsteps, who committed the traditional Japanese Seppuku suicide, to preserve his honour.

The music incorporates Far Eastern influences to contrast with Pinkerton's portrayal as a typical American. Whole-tone, five-tone harmonies and exotic instruments create an atmosphere of an idealised Japan, seen through Western eyes. Puccini's sense of expressive melos still comes into its own throughout the work, especially in his writing for the lead role. Her great outbursts are shattering.