CHIO-CHIO-SAN (MADAME BUTTERFLY)
Opera in two acts (three scenes)
Libretto by L. Illik and D. Giacosa
Chio-Cio-san (Madame Butterfly)
Suzuki, the maid Cio-Cio-san
Pinkerton, Lieutenant of the American Navy
Cat, his wife
Sharples, American Consul
Son of Cio-Cio-san
The action takes place in Nagasaki (Japan) at the end of the XIX century.
HISTORY OF CREATION
The opera “Chio-Cio-san” (“Madame Butterfly”) is based on the novel by American writer John L. Long, revised by D. Belasco into drama. Seeing the play during his stay in London, Puccini was thrilled by her vital truthfulness. At his suggestion, librettists L. Illik (1859-1919) and D. Giacosa (1847-1906) wrote opera libretto on the basis of drama. Soon the music was created. At the first performance, held on February 17, 1904 in Milan, the opera, however, failed and was removed from the repertoire. The public did not understand its content and was outraged by the excessive duration of the second act. Puccini reduced some numbers, divided the second act into two separate actions. Fulfilled with these minor changes after three months,
The appeal to the plot from the life of distant Japan corresponded to the exaggeration towards exotics, widespread in European art of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the desire of artists to enrich their palette with new colors. But Puccini did not set himself the task of reproducing Japanese national color in music. The main thing for him was the image of a touching human drama. In her incarnation the composer managed not only to preserve, but also to deepen the content of the literary source.
The opera “Cio-Cio-san” is a lyrical drama full and multifaceted revealing the image of the main character. The alternation of melodious cantileted arias and expressive recitatives, united in broad scenes, which is generally characteristic of Puccini’s operatic manner, is especially characteristic of “Chio-Cio-san.” In the music of the opera, several authentic Japanese melodies are used, organically woven into a musical fabric.
The first act is opened with an energetic introduction. Pinkerton’s “The Yankee Wanderer” is marked by courageous, strong-willed features. The lyrical melody of Pinkerton’s arioso “Caprice il passion” sounds ardent and enthusiastic. The love of love is permeated with ariozo Cio-Cio-san “I’m here for good reason calls.” The large ensemble with the choir conveys the contrasting feelings of the participants: Sharpless’s fears and the recognition of the enamored Pinkerton, the admiration or disappointment of the others. Humility and obedience are heard in the ariozo of Cio-Cio-san. “Yes, before my fate.” With the advent of Bonzah, music acquires a shade of an ominous threat. The duo of Pinkerton and Cio-Cio-san breathe a languid, inhospitable voice.
The beginning of the first picture of the second act is full of anxiety and anxiety. Sorrowfully worried mournful music accompanies the dialogue of Butterfly and Suzuki. A passionate dream of happiness is filled with the Butterfly aria, “On a Clear Day, Desired.” A sad appeal to his son “What will I have to take you on pens” is replaced by a sincere arioso “Let the flowers with their petals.” The final chorus, singing without words, conveys the silence of the night.
Orchestral introduction to the second picture (the second act) 1 with its dramatic anticipation of the fateful denouement. Following him, a light and calm orchestral episode depicts the sunrise. In the music of the tercet, Sharpless’s insistence, Suzuki’s fright and despair, Pinkerton’s remorse are imprinted. Sadness is fulfilled by Pinkerton’s ariaso “Farewell, my peaceful shelter.” A scene following him is saturated with a sense of alertness and anxious anticipation. The last arioso Butterfly “And I, I’m going far” is imbued with calm determination. The final chords of the opera sound mournfully majestic.
1 This picture is usually given as an independent third act.