St Petersburg, Mariinsky II

Madama Butterfly

opera by Giacomo Puccini

Performed in Italian (the performance will have synchronised Russian and English supertitles)


Madama Butterfly (Сіо-Cio-San): Viktoria Yastrebova
Suzuki: Liuba Sokolova
B. F. Pinkerton: Akhmed Agadi
Sharpless: Kirill Zharovin
Goro: Andrei Zorin

World premiere: 17 February 1904, Teatro alla Scala, Milan
Premiere at the Mariinsky Theatre: 4 January 1913 (performed in Russian, translated by Vladimir Alekseyev)
Premiere of this production:
29 May 1999 – Great Theatre – National Opera, Warsaw
22 March 2005 – Mariinsky Theatre

Running time 3 hours 20 minutes
The performance has two intervals

Age category 12+


Music by Giacomo Puccini
Libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, after David Belasco´s stage version of a magazine story by John Luther Long

Musical Director: Valery Gergiev
Stage Director: Mariusz Treliński
Set Designer: Boris Kudlička
Costume Designers: Magdalena Tesławska and Paweł Grabarczyk
Lighting Designer: Stanisław Zięba
Lighting Adaptation for the Mariinsky II by Andrei Ponizovsky and Yegor Kartashov
Principal Chorus Master: Konstantin Rylov
Musical Preparation: Alla Brosterman
Choreographer: Emil Wesołowski


Act I
Pinkerton buys a house. He tells Sharpless of his infatuation for a Japanese girl and of his intention to marry her for "nine hundred and ninety-nine years", with the privilege of annulment when convenient. Pinkerton’s levity upsets Sharpless, who tries to convince the lieutenant of the gravity of a relationship with a Japanese girl. Pinkerton repeats how intensely he loves her.
Laughing voices of Japanese girls are heard and Cio-Cio-San appears. She introduces her relatives and friends to Pinkerton. Presently, she informs her beloved that for his sake she has renounced her religion. The marriage ceremony is interrupted when Cio-Cio-San’s uncle appears to condemn his niece for renouncing her people. Contemptuously, her relatives spurn the girl and depart. Butterfly bursts into tears but is soon soothed by Pinkerton’s tenderness. As night descends, the lovers are happy in each other’s arms as they confide their passionate feelings.

Act II
In Butterfly’s house Suzuki prays before an image of Buddha. Butterfly chides her gently for appealing to a Japanese god. Still, Butterfly is faithful to Pinkerton, who has been forced to leave with the American fleet, and she is true to his religion and country, certain that some fine day he will come back to her. Sharpless brings Butterfly a letter which she is about to read when the marriage broker arrives with a wealthy suitor. Butterfly is deaf to all propositions. When Sharpless inquires what Butterfly would do if Pinkerton were to desert her, she answers gravely that she would kill herself. She now calls in the child, Little Trouble, who is the fruit of their love. Sharpless now knows that a terrible tragedy is imminent. Suddenly there comes from the harbor the sound of a cannon shot. Cio-Cio-San notices the ship arriving and learns that
Pinkerton has returned. In anticipation of her beloved’s return, Butterfly helps Suzuki decorate the house with cherry blossoms. She then dons her wedding dress, but day passes into night with no sign of Pinkerton.

Dawn has come. Weary of her vigil, Butterfly goes to an inner room. While she is absent, Pinkerton and Sharpless arrive at Butterfly’s house. Suzuki is overwhelmed with joy at the sight of Pinkerton, but when she sees an American woman at Pinkerton’s side she senses the worst.
Sharpless persuades Pinkerton to leave without seeing Butterfly.
After a tender farewell to the house and his memories, Pinkerton departs. When Butterfly rushes into the room she finds not Pinkerton, but Sharpless and a strange woman. When she sees her servant in tears she begins to understand what has happened. The American woman – Pinkerton’s wife Kate – implores Cio-Cio-San to turn over to her Pinkerton’s child. At last, Cio-Cio-San is ready to do this – but only on condition that Pinkerton himself makes the request. When Sharpless and Kate leave to call Pinkerton, Butterfly raises a dagger to her throat. Little Trouble appears. Butterfly bids her child farewell... Then she goes behind a screen with her dagger. A moment later she staggers out; by the time Pinkerton appears, she is dead.
Pinkerton is overwhelmed with grief.

The great verist composer Giacomo Puccini’s opera Madama Butterfly owes its plot to the semi-autobiographical novel by the French naval officer and voyager Pierre Loti. Obvious fables with their abundance of descriptions of imaginary and actual real life in exotic lands had a suitable effect on the transformation of Loti’s texts into an opera libretto (apropos, this was also the case with Léo Delibes’ Lakmé). Loti’s Madame Chrysanthème underwent several stages of transformation: having originated with the memoirs of Japan of the sister of the American author John Luther Long, it became David Belasco’s play Madame Butterfly and, under this title, was performed in Italian theatres before subsequently transferring to the opera house. the love story of an American officer and a Japanese girl was to prove tragic for both, frivolity and trust playing out a cruel joke set against a background of two clashing cultures. But for Puccini, too, the focus lies on the strength and power of emotions, the plot acting as a premise for their existence, while the Japanese entourage produces a certain oriental flavour in the music. the Mariinsky Theatre performs a production by Polish stage director Mariusz Treliński, brought from Warsaw’s Opera Narodowa. Here the sets underlie the principle of unity of the natural and the artificial, so revered in Japan even nowadays. the costumes were produced by including references to clothing of the Meiji era, while the stage lighting encompasses strong and pure colours without semi-shade or transitions, and this creates the sensation of a mystery, a mystery which travellers in the past and readers of their novels tried to fathom. Denis Velikzhanin

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