Honeymoon hope turns to betrayal and despair
On the surface a dream-like wedding for a groom and his young, beautiful bride - but behind the façade is a cruel reality. Abandoned and betrayed, Butterfly finds her world crashing around her as her one chance for freedom becomes her prison. Her desperation and pain escalate as she fights for survival with devastating consequences.
Madam Butterfly is a powerful story of unrequited love, human pain and suffering which is magnificently intensified by Puccini’s glorious music, promising a night of drama and emotion. Inspired by Puccini’s fantasy landscape of exotic pleasures, Lindy Hume’s new production interprets Butterfly’s famous story through a 21st century lens.
piercingly emotional modern-day interpretation
The Sunday Telegraph
The conductor is supported by Colin & Sylvia Fletcher; director by Christopher Greene & Annmaree O’Keeffe; the role of Cio-Cio-San by Jo Furber and the role of Pinkerton by Martyn Ryan
WNO’s 75th anniversary supported by Colwinston Charitable Trust
Cast & Creative
Wedding preparations are underway for Lieutenant Pinkerton of the United States Navy, who has taken out a ‘999-year’ lease on a house. Anticipating the arrival of his young bride-to-be, known as Madam Butterfly, Pinkerton is reassured by the ‘marriage-broker’ Goro that both the lease and the marriage contract have convenient exit clauses. He breezily shares his world view over a pre-wedding drink with his compatriot the American Consul Sharpless, who is concerned that the girl Butterfly recently visited the American Consulate and appears to be taking the marriage seriously. His advice to proceed with caution goes unheeded by the infatuated Pinkerton.
Butterfly (Cio Cio San) arrives, surrounded by friends and relations, eager to meet her new husband. She candidly reveals to Pinkerton and Sharpless the facts of her life so far. Her family has lost everything. Her father had committed suicide, so she entertains as a ‘hostess’ to support her impoverished mother. She is exactly 15 years old. Privately, Butterfly shares her most treasured possessions with Pinkerton, confessing that, in order to please her husband, she has been secretly adapting to his American way-of-life and beliefs.
The marriage ceremony takes place with efficiency, but the celebrations are interrupted by the Bonze, Butterfly’s feared uncle, who confronts her about her secret visits to the mission and the American Consulate. Furious, the Bonze publicly condemns Butterfly for betraying her community and culture. Her shocked family and friends, apart from the servant Suzuki, denounce and shun her. Pinkerton comforts the abandoned Butterfly. The newlyweds make love under the stars.
Act Two Part One
Three years have passed. Butterfly and Suzuki are still living in Pinkerton’s house and have run out of money. Convinced that Pinkerton will return, Butterfly has turned down several marriage proposals from the wealthy Yamadori.
Sharpless has had a letter from Pinkerton asking him to break the news to Butterfly that he is planning to return, but that Pinkerton does not want to see her. She refuses to listen. When Sharpless tries to persuade her to accept Yamadori, she says death would be preferable and reveals she has had a son by Pinkerton. Sharpless leaves, promising to let the child’s father know. The harbour cannon is heard, signaling the arrival of Pinkerton’s ship. Her devotion vindicated; Butterfly celebrates with Suzuki before settling down to await his arrival in a night vigil.
Act Two Part Two
The next morning Butterfly is still waiting. Suzuki persuades her to sleep as Sharpless returns with Pinkerton and his real American wife, Kate. They ask for Suzuki’s help in breaking the news to Butterfly that they want to adopt the child. Faced with the reality of his actions, Pinkerton gives Sharpless money to pay for the child and leaves.
Butterfly wakes, to be confronted by a stranger who makes her afraid. Comprehending that this woman is Pinkerton’s wife, she agrees to give up her son on condition that Pinkerton comes in person to fetch him. She says goodbye to her young son and, using the weapon her father used before her, she kills herself. Pinkerton returns to find Butterfly’s lifeless body.