About the show

Act One
Lieutenant Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton of the United States Navy is stationed in Nagasaki. He has paid for an arranged marriage with a 15-year old geisha, Cio-Cio-San, known as Madama Butterfly. In addition, he has bought a hill-top house on a 999-year lease with a monthly option. As the action begins, he is inspecting the house with Goro, the marriage broker – the wedding is to take place there in a few minutes’ time. Sharpless, the US consul, arrives. He tells Pinkerton that he heard Butterfly’s voice at the consulate and is convinced she is deeply in love. He fears that Pinkerton will destroy her – Pinkerton does not take the marriage seriously, but regards it merely as a convenience. Pinkerton dismisses his fears but affirms that he waits for the day he will make a ‘genuine’ marriage to an American woman.

Cio-Cio-San arrives with her friends. She charms with her cultivated manners and child-like appearance – she is from a noble family that has been reduced to penury, and has had to earn a living as a geisha. It emerges that her father committed suicide at the request of the emperor. The remaining wedding guests and officials arrive and a perfunctory ceremony takes place. As the toasting begins, the voice of The Bonze – the high priest – is heard. He reveals that Butterfly has converted to Christianity. He and the entire Japanese contingent renounce her. They disperse, shouting curses as they go.

Pinkerton tries to comfort Cio-Cio-San. Suzuki, her faithful servant, prepares her for the night. The newlyweds are left alone. Darkness has fallen, the sky is full of stars.

Act Two, Part I
Three years have passed. Pinkerton left Nagasaki soon after he ‘married’ Cio-Cio-San, promising that he would return in the spring ‘when the robins nest’. Cio-Cio-San and Suzuki are on the verge of destitution. Suzuki tries to make Cio-Cio-San see that Pinkerton will not return, but Cio Cio-San is determined to wait for him.

Sharpless visits. He has a letter from Pinkerton. He tries in vain to read it through Cio-Cio-San’s constant chatter. They are interrupted by Goro and Prince Yamadori, Cio-Cio-San’s rich suitor. Cio-Cio-San has rejected his offer of marriage many times and does so again, insisting that she is already married. Goro points out that, under Japanese law, deserted women are automatically divorced. She is American, she says, and will only recognise American law. The two leave Sharpless and Cio-Cio-San alone. He resumes his attempt to read the letter. It is clear that Pinkerton has asked Sharpless to tell Cio-Cio-San that he will not be returning to her. Sharpless tries gently to guide her towards facing the truth and suggests she should accept Yamadori’s proposal. She produces her trump card – she has borne Pinkerton’s son. Surely he will not forget her now? Sharpless, at a loss, leaves her to her waiting. A cannon shot is heard from the harbour. Pinkerton’s ship has returned.

Act Two, Part II
Cio-Cio-San has waited all night, but Pinkerton has not come. Suzuki persuades her to rest. Sharpless arrives with Pinkerton hoping to find Suzuki alone. She must be the one to explain to Cio-Cio-San that Pinkerton has an American wife, Kate, and that they wish to adopt the son that Cio-Cio-San bore him. Pinkerton is aghast at what has happened and leaves Sharpless and Kate with Suzuki. Cio-Cio-San bursts in on them. Now at last she has to face the truth. For her it is the end.

Cast

CAST AND CREATIVE

Composer –  Giacomo Puccini
Conductor – David Parry
Original Director – Anthony Minghella
Associate Director/ Original Choreographer – Carolyn Choa
Revival Director – Sarah Tipple
Set Designer – Michael Levine
Costume Designer – Han Feng
Lighting Designer – Peter Mumford
Revival Choreographer – Anita Griffin
Puppetry – Blind Summit Theatre
Cio-Cio San – Mary Plazas
Pinkerton – Adam Diegel
Sharpless – Jonathan Summers
Suzuki – Maria Zifchak