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Madama Butterfly

on September 07, 2020
This is the page for the performance on September 07, 2020.
Music Giacomo Puccini Text Giuseppe Giacosa & Luigi Illica
→ Tragedia giapponese


Cast 07.09.2020

Conductor Philippe Jordan
Production Anthony Minghella
Regie und Choreographie Carolyn Choa
Stage Design Michael Levine
Costume Design Han Feng
Lighting Design Peter Mumford
Puppendesign und -regie Blind Summit Theatre Mark Down & Nick Barnes
Director's Assistant Paula Williams
Assistant Choreographer David John
Assistenz Bühne Matthias Kronfuss
Cio-Cio-San Asmik Grigorian
Suzuki Virginie Verrez
Pinkerton Freddie De Tommaso
Sharpless Boris Pinkhasovich
Goro Andrea Giovannini
Solotänzerin Hsin-Ping Chang
Solotänzer Tom Yang
Puppenspieler Eugenijus Slavinskas Valentin Alfery Emil Kohlmayr
Kate Pinkerton Patricia Nolz
Fürst Yamadori Stefan Astakhov
Onkel Bonze Evgeny Solodovnikov
Kaiserlicher Kommissär Michael Arivony


Madama Butterfly tells of a double misunderstanding: the Japanese geisha Cio-Cio-San dreams of a joint future in the USA with her American husband, while the American Lieutenant Pinkerton procures a state-legitimised affair at his station.

Production: The production by Oscar-winning Hollywood director Anthony Minghella, known worldwide for films such as The English Patient and The talented Mr. Ripley, fascinates with its haunting visual worlds. Poetic, cinematic impact is combined with elements from traditional Japanese theatre, the work creates an unheard-of pull through the exemplary use of gestures, colours, dance, puppetry and light, which gains its energy from an aesthetic fine-grainedness and depth of field.


In reviewing the terms to a lease for a Japanese wedding house, which overlooks Nagasaki harbour, includes a geisha wife and runs for a period of 999 years but can be terminated on any given month, Lieutenant Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton of the U.S. Navy is quite pleased with its flexible terms. Just the day before, the American consul, Sharpless, who was invited as the Lieutenant’s best man and has a much more refined ear than he, overheard the lovely voice of the young geisha, Cio-Cio-San, known as Madam Butterfly, who had visited the US consulate the day before, heeding him to question: could her voice be the sound of true love? He warns his compatriot against carelessly »eliciting tones of sorrow from this voice.« Knowing that what might be irresponsible game for Pinkerton could result in existential seriousness for Cio-Cio-San. After all, she had broken all ties to her family and culture in order to dream the American dream as »Madame F. B. Pinkerton«. After Pinkerton left Madam Butterfly, she continued to defend her dream against the cold reality of her situation for three years, trusting the American marriage laws and the child she gave birth to after Pinkerton's departure: a blond, blue-eyed boy whom she named Dolore (»Sorrow«). Sharpless believes he can relieve the socially isolated and destitute Cio-Cio-San by persuading Pinkerton, who in the meantime sought a »real marriage« to a »real American girl«, to adopt the child. Madame Butterfly agrees to give up her last remaining tie to Pinkerton – her son – if Pinkerton himself comes to collect him. Then she confronts him with a Japanese suicide ritual, which she performs in the presence of her son just after blindfolding him.


To musically portray a Japan in conflict with open borders and forced westernization through the American Navy in 1853, Puccini leaves behind his distinct musical language and in doing so incorporates material from original or mediated Far Eastern sources: In addition to borrowing from transcriptions of Japanese music by Rudolf Dittrich, a student of Bruckner, he used melodies from a music box made in Switzerland for export to China, added Japanese percussion instruments and was also inspired by a Kabuki theatre performance. The latter refers to an important aspect of the main character. For as a geisha, Cio-Cio-San is trained to entertain a man through conversation as much as through artistic performances such as singing, dance and pantomime. Throughout, the viewer may question whether her self-portrayal is authentic or if she is fooling both her partners in the play – and the audience – with an act of artistic masquerades. For example, in acting out one of the play’s most famous arias »Un bel dì vedremo«, »One day we will see«, she uses her body and voice to display to her confidant, Suzuki, her longed-for return of her American husband; and during a scene in which she improvises a humorous dialogue for the consul at an American divorce court; and yet again, when she recalls the degrading fate of a street dancer for her son. The supposed naivety of the main character thus continually proves to be in an abysmal state and often broken. The exoticism in Puccini's »Butterfly« score is more than, and different than, a folkloristic decoration. He stages a critique of colonialism that makes the work fruitful for post-colonial questions and readings.

Co-production partner

Reproduced from an original co-production of The Metropolitan Opera, English National Opera, and the Lithuanian National Opera.