This is Puccini’s heartbreaking love story of betrayal about an American naval officer who marries a young Japanese girl out of convenience only to leave her as she faithfully awaits his return. Set in 1890’s Japan, this is Puccini’s devastating saga of devotion, tradition, and sacrifice, and one of the most beloved operas of all time.
Pamila Z. Gray
Wig & Makeup Designer
|Role||4/13, 4/14, 4/18, 4/21, 4/26, 4/28|
|Cio-Cio San||Maria Natale|
*Casting subject to change without notice
Synopsis: Madama Butterfly
Act I: Japan, early 20th century
Lieutenant B.F. Pinkerton of the U. S. Navy inspects a house overlooking Nagasaki harbor that he is leasing from Goro, a marriage broker. The house comes with three servants and a geisha wife named Cio-Cio-san, known as Madame Butterfly. The lease runs for 999 years, subject to monthly renewal. The American consul Sharpless arrives breathless from climbing the hill. Pinkerton describes his philosophy of the fearless Yankee roaming the world in search of experience and pleasure. He is not sure whether his feelings for the young girl are love or a whim, but he intends to go through with the marriage ceremony. Sharpless warns him that the girl may view the marriage differently, but Pinkerton brushes off such concerns and says someday he will take a real, American wife. He offers the consul whiskey and proposes a toast. Cio-Cio-san is heard climbing the hill with her friends for the ceremony. In casual conversation after the formal introduction, Cio-Cio-san admits her age, 15, and explains that her family was once prominent but lost its position, and she has had to earn her living as a geisha. Her relatives arrive and chatter about the marriage. Cio-Cio-san shows Pinkerton her very few possessions, and quietly tells him she has been to the Christian mission and will embrace her husband’s religion. The Imperial Commissioner reads the marriage agreement, and the relatives congratulate the couple. Suddenly, a threatening voice is heard from afar—it is the Bonze, Cio-Cio-san’s uncle, a priest. He curses the girl for going to the Christian mission and rejecting her ancestral religion. Pinkerton orders them to leave and as they go the Bonze and the shocked relatives denounce Cio-Cio-san. Pinkerton tries to console Cio-Cio-san with sweet words. She is helped by Suzuki into her wedding kimono, and joins Pinkerton in the garden, where they make love.
Act II – Part 1:
Three years have passed, and Cio-Cio-san awaits her husband’s return. Suzuki prays to the gods for help, but Cio-Cio-san berates her for believing in lazy Japanese gods rather than in Pinkerton’s promise to return one day. Sharpless appears with a letter from Pinkerton, but before he can read it to Cio-Cio-san, Goro arrives with the latest potential husband for Cio-Cio-san, the wealthy Prince Yamadori. Cio-Cio-san politely serves the guests tea but insists she is not available for marriage – her American husband has not deserted her. She dismisses Goro and Yamadori. Sharpless attempts to read Pinkerton’s letter and suggests that perhaps Cio-Cio-san should reconsider Yamadori’s offer. “And this?” asks the outraged Cio-Cio-san, showing the consul her small child. Sharpless is too upset to tell her more of the letter’s contents. He leaves, promising to tell Pinkerton of the child. A cannon shot is heard in the harbor announcing the arrival of a ship. Cio-Cio-san and Suzuki take a telescope to the terrace and read the name of Pinkerton’s ship. Overjoyed, Cio-Cio-san joins Suzuki in strewing the house with flower petals from the garden. Night falls, and Cio-Cio-san, Suzuki, and the child settle into a vigil watching over the harbor.
Act II – Part 2:
Dawn breaks, and Suzuki insists that Cio-Cio-san get some sleep. Cio-Cio-san carries the child into another room. Sharpless appears with Pinkerton and Kate, Pinkerton’s new wife. Suzuki realizes who the American woman is, and agrees to help break the news to Cio-Cio-san. Pinkerton is overcome with guilt and runs from the scene, pausing to remember his days in the little house. Cio-Cio-san rushes in hoping to find Pinkerton, but sees Kate instead. Grasping the situation, she agrees to give up the child but insists Pinkerton return for him. Dismissing everyone, Cio-Cio-san takes out the dagger with which her father committed suicide, choosing to die with honor rather than live in shame. She is interrupted momentarily when the child comes in, but Cio-Cio-san says goodbye to him and sends him to play. She stabs herself as Pinkerton calls her name.
Introduction to Opera
At 6:30 before evening performances and at 1:30 before matinees, a free talk will be presented in the California Theatre that will acquaint you with the composer’s life, his place in the history of opera, the story and its characters. If you are attending the 1:30 or 6:30 Introduction, you must be ticketed for that day’s performance; and your ticket must be torn as you enter the building.
A one-hour preview for each 2017-18 production is presented free of charge in the third floor rehearsal hall of the California Theatre, located at 345 S. First Street. Please enter via Market Street entrance and take elevator to third floor. Moderated by GD Larry Hancock, the preview includes a lecture and performances by OSJ artists. Dates for previews are as follows:
- The Abduction from the Seraglio: September 4, 2018
- Pagliacci: November 6, 2018
- Moby-Dick: January 29, 2019
- Madama Butterfly: April 2, 2019
All previews begin at 12 noon.
Opera at Your Doorstep Lecture Series
Increase your understanding of opera and enjoy upcoming Opera San José performances all the more by attending one of longtime OSJ subscriber Bradford Wade’s FREE previews. Dates for Pagliacci lecture talks will be announced in October 2018. For more information about the Opera at Your Doorstep Lecture Series and/or to RSVP, email OperaAtYourDoorstep@gmail.com.
Performances of Madama Butterfly are made possible by a grant from a Cultural Affairs grant from the the City of San Jose.