Cio-Cio-San marries, then falls in love with, US Navy Lieutenant Benjamin Pinkerton – with ultimately tragic consequences.
A young Japanese woman, Cio-Cio-San (Madam Butterfly), has agreed to an arranged marriage with Lieutenant Pinkerton of the United States Navy. She takes the marriage seriously and falls in love, while he sees it simply as an amusing diversion during his posting to Japan.
Leaving his bride behind him, Pinkerton is gone for three years, during which Cio-Cio-San is reduced to penury and gives birth to his child. Sharpless, the American consul, breaks the news to her that Pinkerton has returned, but with a new, American wife.
When they hear about the child, Pinkerton and Kate decide that they should adopt him. In despair, knowing that they will be able to look after him better than she can, Butterfly takes a last farewell of her son and kills herself.
Joachim Herz’s Madam Butterfly has been with us for over three decades and with good reason. It’s a classic, traditional staging of this much-loved opera. While being completely faithful to the composer’s intentions it also critiques imperialism to powerful effect. Each scene looks like a sepia photograph through which we glimpse a vanished world.
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