Madame Butterfly

Tragedy of a Japanese woman in three acts after John L. Long and David

Belasco by L. ILLICA and G. GIACOSA.


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

husband's religion.

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

Yamadori's offer.

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

dramatic power.--

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

hearing--and seeing.

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

first Act.--

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!"