Tragedy of a Japanese woman in three acts after John L. Long and David
Belasco by L. ILLICA and G. GIACOSA.
Music by GIACOMO PUCCINI.
Though Puccini has not reached the musical heights of "Boheme" and
"Tosca" in this opera, it has nevertheless a certain value for its true
local colouring, united to the grace and the broad, flowing cantilene
peculiar to the Italian composer.
These are most prominent in the love duet.
In the second act the little flower scene, which seems redolent with
the delicate perfume of cherry blossoms, and the shimmering atmosphere,
steeped in a peculiar shifting haze, gives score to the best musical
effects of this famous composer.
The scene is laid in Nagasaki in our own time.
The first act takes place on a hill, from which there is a grand view
of the ocean and of the town below.
Goro ("Nakodo"=matchmaker) shows his new Japanese house to an American
lieutenant, Linkerton, who has purchased it in Japanese fashion for 999
years, with the right of giving monthly notice.--He is waiting for his
bride Cho-Cho-San, named Butterfly, whom he is about to wed under the
same queer conditions for one hundred yens (a yen about four shillings).
Butterfly's maid Suzuki and his two servants are presented to him, but
he is impatient to embrace his sweetheart, with whom he is very much in
Sharpless, the American Consul, who tells him much good of the little
bride, warns him, not to bruise the wings of the delicate butterfly,
but Linkerton only laughs at his remonstrances.
At last Butterfly appears with her companions. At her bidding, they
all shut their umbrellas and kneel to their friend's future husband, of
whom the girl is very proud.
Questioned by the Consul about her family, she tells him, that they are
of good origin, but that, her father having died, she had to support
herself and her mother as Geisha. She is but fifteen and very sweet
and tender hearted.--
When the procession of her relations come up, they all do obeisance to
Linkerton. They are all jealous of Butterfly's good luck and prophesy
an evil end, but the girl perfectly trusts and believes in her lover
and even confides to him, that she has left her own gods, to pray
henceforth to the God of her husband.
When the latter begins to show her their house, she produces from her
sleeve her few precious belongings; these are some silken scarfs, a
little brooch, a looking glass and a fan; also a long knife, which she
at once hides in a corner of the house. Goro tells Linkerton, that it
is the weapon, with which her father performed "Harakiri" (killed
himself). The last things she shows her lover are some little figures,
"the Ottoken", which represent the souls of her ancestors.--
When the whole assembly is ready, they are married by the commissary.
Linkerton treats his relations to champagne, but soon the festival is
interrupted by the dismal howls of Butterfly's uncle, the Bonze, who
climbs the hill and tells the relations, that the wretched bride has
denied her faith, and has been to the mission-house, to adopt her
All turn from her with horror and curse her. But Linkerton consoles
his weeping wife and the act closes with a charming love duet.
The second act shows Butterfly alone.--Linkerton has left her, and she
sits dreamily with her faithful maid Suzuki, who vainly invokes her
gods, to bring back the faithless husband.
The young wife, who has been waiting three long years for his return,
still firmly believes his promise, to come back when the
robin-redbreast should build its nest.
She refuses a proposal of marriage from prince Yamadori, who has loved
her for years, and now tries again to win the forsaken wife. She
answers him with quiet dignity, that, though by Japanese law a wife is
considered free, as soon as her husband has left her, she considers
herself bound by the laws of her husband's country, and Yamadori leaves
Sharpless now enters with a letter he has received from Linkerton. Not
daring, to let her know its contents at once, he warns her, that her
husband will never return and advises her to accept prince
Butterfly is at first startled and alarmed, but soon she recovers
herself, and beckoning to Suzuki, she shows Sharpless her little fair
haired, blue eyed boy, begging the Consul to write and tell her
husband, that his child is awaiting him.
Sharpless takes leave of her deeply touched and without having shown
the letter, when Suzuki enters screaming and accusing Goro, who has
goaded her to fury, by spreading a report in the town, that the child's
father is not known.
"You lie, you coward!" cries Butterfly, seizing a knife to kill the
wretch. But suppressing her wrath she throws away the weapon and kicks
him from her in disgust.
Suddenly a cannon shot is heard. Running on to the terrace Butterfly
perceives a war-ship in the harbour, bearing the name "Abraham
All her troubles are forgotten; she bids her maid gather all the
flowers in the garden; these she scatters around in profusion. Then
she fetches her boy and bids Suzuki comb her hair, while she herself
rouges her pale cheeks and those of her child.--Then they sit down
behind a partition, in which they have made holes, through which they
may watch the ship and await Linkerton's arrival.
The third act finds them in the same position. Suzuki and the child
have fallen asleep, while Butterfly, sleepless, gazes through the
"Shosy". Suzuki waking sees, that it is morning and implores her
mistress to take some rest, on which Butterfly, taking her child in her
arms, retires into the inner room.
A loud knock causes Suzuki to open the "Shosy", and she finds herself
in the presence of Sharpless and Linkerton. The latter signs to her,
not to waken Butterfly. She is showing him the room adorned with
flowers for his arrival, when she suddenly perceives a lady walking in
the garden and hears, that she is Linkerton's lawful American wife.
Sharpless, taking the maid aside, begs her to prepare her mistress for
the coming blow and tells her, that the foreign lady desires to adopt
her husband's little boy.
Linkerton himself is deeply touched by the signs of Butterfly's undying
love; full of remorse he entreats Sharpless to comfort her as best he
can, and weeping leaves the scene of his first love dream.
His wife Kate returning to the foot of the terrace, sweetly repeats her
wish to adopt the little boy, when Butterfly, emerging from the inner
room, comes to look for her long lost husband, whose presence she feels
with the divination of love.
Seeing Sharpless standing by a foreign lady and Suzuki in tears the
truth suddenly bursts upon her. "Is he alive?" she asks, and when
Suzuki answers "yes", she knows that he has forsaken her.--
Turned to stone she listens to Kate's humble apologies and to her offer
to take the child.--By a supreme effort she controls herself.
"I will give up my child to him only; let him come and take him; I
shall by ready in half an hour," she answers brokenly.
When Sharpless and Kate have left her, Butterfly sends Suzuki into
another room with the child. Then seizing her father's long knife she
takes her white veil, throwing it over the folding screen. Kissing the
blade she reads its inscription. "Honourably he dies, who no longer
lives in honour," and raises it to her throat.
At this moment the door opens and her child runs up to his mother with
outstretched arms. Snatching him to her bosom she devours him with
kisses, then sends him into the garden.
Seizing the knife once more Butterfly disappears behind the screen and
shortly afterward the knife is heard to fall.
When Linkerton's call "Butterfly" is heard, she emerges once more from
the background and drags herself to the door; but there her strength
fails her and she sinks dead to the ground.--
Music-Drama in four Acts. Text and Music by JOAN MANEN.
It is only a few years since the young Spanish composer has begun to be
known beyond his own country.
He was an infant prodigy, whose musical genius revealed itself in his
earliest childhood. He began to play the piano at the age of three,
and at seven he knew twenty-four of Bach's fugues by heart.
His fame began to be spoken of during his tours in Spain and all over
America, where he appeared not only as virtuoso on the piano and on the
violin, but also as director in difficult orchestral pieces.--When he
was thirteen he devoted himself entirely to the violin and to
composition, both of which studies occupied his early years completely.
Acte was produced at Barcelona in 1903, and its first performance out
of Spain took place in Dresden on January 24th 1908.
It was received with general approval, due, it must be confessed, not
so much to its dramatic effect as to its gorgeous and artistic staging.
Though the opera shows great talent, fine orchestration, a distinct
sense of local colour and some beautiful melodies, it lacks depth and
It is more like one of those old stage operas of Verdi and Bellini,
though it does not imitate them and contains, Wagner like, a number of
leading motives. The same want is also to be found in the libretto,
which fails to show us Nero, the many-sided; depicting him almost
exclusively as a lover.--But considering the composer's youth, (he was
just nineteen, when he wrote Acte), it promises much and is well worth
The scene is laid in Rome during the reign of Nero.
The first Act takes place in the Palatine, where Agrippina, Nero's
mother, is haunted by evil forebodings, suggested by the story of
Clytemnestra's fate, sung by a chorus of her attendants.
Nero appears, and seeing his mother restless and uneasy, tries to
soothe her with assurances of his filial devotion. Agrippina reminds
him of all she has done for him, and how she has committed crimes to
pave his way to the throne.--To reassure her, he begs her to ask any
favour she desires. On this she demands his separation from the Greek
slave Acte, whom he has freed, and whom he loves to distraction, Acte
being in fact the only woman he ever loved.
Nero of course indignantly refuses to make this sacrifice.--Agrippina
persists in her demands and carried away by her violent temper and her
contempt for her false and treacherous son she commands him, either to
give up Acte, or to give back the imperial power to his mother, as she
alone made him, what he is.--Nero enraged shows himself as the ruler
and the despot and so terrifies her, that she tries to retract her evil
words and begs his pardon.
Tigellinus, Nero's friend and confidant, has heard her last words. He
excites his master's hatred against his false mother still more, and
they decide to take vengeance on her at some favourable time.
Hearing Acte singing in the vestibule Tigellinus leaves Nero, who
receives his lady with open arms. A charming love-duet closes the
In the second Act Marcus, an old Christian Patriarch, meets Acte in the
gardens of the Palatine at night and wins her over to his faith. She
promises to join the Christians, and to this purpose calls her slave
Parthos, whom she persuades to guide her to the cave of Marcus.--After
having given him a ring, Nero's love-token, to deliver to Caesar, she
bribes Parthos, to swear, not to betray her secret, by making over to
him all her worldly goods.--
Unfortunately this interview has been witnessed by Agrippina from her
hiding place in the bushes, and she decides to make use of her
discovery against her son.
When day breaks a grand festival takes place in the gardens. Agrippina
hails her son, and seeing him alone she sweetly asks where his faithful
companion Acte is.--Nero at once sends Tigellinus in search of her.
A beautiful ballet is now danced, and afterwards Caesar himself takes
his lute and sings a hymn in praise of Venus, the Goddess of love.--He
has hardly ended, when Tigellinus rushes in and exclaims that Acte is
not to be found.
Nero storms and Agrippina, pretending to know nothing, suggests that
Parthos should be questioned. The poor slave is dragged forward; he
denies any knowledge of Acte's whereabouts, but her ring is found upon
him. This he tremblingly gives to Nero, declaring that Acte gave it to
him to return to Caesar.--Tigellinus says, that the slave evidently
knows more than this, and Nero orders him to be tortured. While
the wretched Parthos is being led away Agrippina declares defiantly,
that she alone knows where Acte is, and offers to tell Nero on the
condition, that he will restore to her the imperial power, that she
covets. Nero, enraged beyond measure orders Tigellinus to keep his
mother as a prisoner, until she reveals Acte's hiding-place.
He then turns to the frightened spectators and with the words "My will
is law, I am Caesar and will remain so for ever" the Act closes.
In the third Act Nero accompanied by Tigellinus leads his Pretorian
guards to the hiding-place of the Christians.--This he has found out
from the confessions of Parthos.--Nero hears Acte's voice singing a
Miserere, but commands his guards to conceal themselves.--
The Christians, among them Acte and Marcus, believing themselves safe
in the stormy night, at last emerge from the mountain caves, and at a
sign from Nero are surrounded by the Pretorian guards.
Nero seizes Acte and tries to win back her love, but Acte remains firm,
and she so infuriates her royal lover, that he threatens her with his
dagger.--Old Marcus stepping between, only rouses the Emperor's anger
to a higher pitch, while Tigellinus denounces the old man as Nero's
rival and the cause of Acte's flight. Both are led away as captives
with their Christian brethren to Rome.
The last Act takes place on the terrace of the Palatine.
Lovely dances beguile the weary hours for Nero, lying on his couch, a
prey to love and hatred. Tigellinus tries to rouse his pride by
relating to him the last interview between Marcus and Acte overheard by
He describes the old man's exhortations and glowing promises of a
better life, and Acte's calm courage and deep faith, and Nero cries:
"She must be mine, or she dies!"--At this moment the Christians are
heard, greeting Caesar as they pass the palace on their way to
death.--Acte is not with them, she is now brought before Nero with
Marcus, for whom she implores Nero's pardon.--But it is in vain; Nero
falls upon the originator of his woes, and kills him with his own
In this moment flames are seen leaping up in the streets of Rome.
Tigellinus hurries in, exclaiming that the people accuse their Emperor
of having set the city on fire, and already their furious cry is heard:
"Death to the red Caesar!"
Beside himself with rage and fear Nero seizes Acte, and throwing her
down from the terrace amongst the people, he accuses the Christians of
having set fire to the town. Acte perishes a victim to the fury of the
people, while Nero cries out: "Burn O Rome, burn, Nero greets Thee!"
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