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Madama Butterfly

by Puccini


[This synopsis, like my others, is very, very brief. The reason is that I find the normal programme note much too long, and needlessly detailed and complicated. What I want is more of an overview. If I’ve read an overview – a sort of synopsis of a synopsis – I find that, particularly with the help of surtitles, there is then absolutely no need for a blow-by-blow description of the plot.]


This is a horrible, tragic story, set to wonderful music.


The US naval officer, Lieutenant Pinkerton, marries the 15-year-old Japanese girl, Cio-Cio-san (Butterfly), with the intention of leaving her when he marries an American.


She converted to Christianity in her excitement at marrying an American, which caused her uncle, referred to as the Bonze, to denounce her.


After three years Pinkerton returns. He has sent a letter to the local US consul, Sharpless, asking him to break some news to her. Sharpless doesn’t dare to do so. Pinkerton is married to an American called Kate.


Butterfly has had a child by Pinkerton. Kate has agreed to raise the child.


Butterfly agrees to give up the child. She says goodbye to the child – a little boy, blindfolds him and puts an American flag in his hand. She then goes behind a screen and kills herself with her father’s Japanese sword.


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