Madame Butterfly

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Madame Butterfly (Italian Madama Butterfly) is a three-act opera by Giacomo Puccini. Based on both the short story Madame Chrysanthème and Madame Butterfly, it tells the story of Cio-Cio San (nicknamed Butterfly) in 1904, Nagasaki, Japan. Cio-Cio San, a soprano and beautiful 15 year old girl, is engaged to be married to a U.S. Naval Officer named Pinkerton. He admires her for her innocence and beauty, like a young delicate butterfly, and the fact that he can just as easily pluck her wings. He only wants to temporarily marry her until he finds an American bride. They are happily planned to be married, but Butterfly's uncle disapproves of the fact that she renounced her religion for her husband. Her family disowns her, but Pinkerton comforts her.

In the next act, 3 years have passed and Pinkerton is off and gone. Butterfly is alone, and Suzuki shows up to her home with a letter from Pinkerton. Butterfly thinks the letter says he will return, and Sharpless is not sure what to say to her. He doesn't know if Pinkerton will actually return or not. Butterfly had a child back at home without him, and calls him Sorrow, until her husband comes home, saying then when he returns the child will be called Joy.

Pinkerton comes home, only to have Butterfly find out that these past three years, he's been with a woman named Kate. Sadly Butterfly accepts this, gives up her child, and chooses what she finds honorable with what she has left.

It's an opera. What do you expect?

This opera has had countless adaptations, one with a page on this wiki being Miss Saigon and Mademoiselle Butterfly. It also inspired the play M. Butterfly, and received quite a few references in Weezer's album Pinkerton.

Tropes used in Madame Butterfly include:

Sharpless: Egli è suo?[1]
Butterfly: Chi mai vide a bimbo del Giappone occhi azzurrini? E il labbro? E i ricciolini d'oro schietto? [2]

  • Converting for Love
  • Dawson Casting: As is the norm for opera, 15-year old Cio-Cio San is never played by an actual teenager. An interesting variation occurs with her three-year old son, Sorrow, who almost always appears "big for his age", with actors around 5-7.
  • Downer Ending
  • Eagle Land, flavor 1: Butterfly's concept of America as a land of freedom, and Christianity as the One True Faith. The composer mocks it by introducing Pinkerton with a "Star Spangled Banner" theme.
  • Fair for Its Day: Nowadays, the play gets criticism for codifying the stereotype of Asian women as fragile and nothing without their Western men, but in its time it was meant to condemn the cruelty of the West towards the East.
  • Famous-Named Foreigner: The American Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton (remember the opera was written in Italy).
  • Geisha: Cio-Cio San.
  • The Ingenue: Poor Butterfly.
  • Leitmotif: Several. There's one for Butterfly's father's knife as well as Pikerton's already-mentioned "Star Spangled Banner", just to mention two.
  • Parental Abandonment: Butterfly's child now has a Missing Mom and a dad who's got his own wife.
  • Seppuku: Butterfly's father's knife is used for this.
  • The Soprano: Cio-Cio San
  • Untranslated Title: In Italy, or any non-English speaking country. The Italian word for butterfly is "farfalla", yet the English word is used for the character's name.
  1. Is it his (Pinkerton's)?
  2. Who ever saw blue eyes on a Japanese boy? And the lip? And the clear golden curls?