Most recent performance
There are currently no scheduled performances of Madama Butterfly. It was last on stage 20 March—25 April 2017 as part of the Spring 2016/17 season.
Cio-Cio-San, the young Japanese bride of dashing American officer Lieutenant Pinkerton, finds her romantic idyll shattered when he deserts her shortly after their marriage. She lives in hope that one day he will return.
Three years later, Cio-Cio-San and her little son see Pinkerton’s ship in the harbour. She excitedly expects his visit – but Pinkerton and his American wife Kate have come only to take the boy away, to raise him in America. Cio-Cio-San bids her son farewell and then takes her own life.
Giacomo Puccini was entranced by David Belasco’s play Madame Butterfly (based on a popular short story by John Luther Long) when he saw it in London in 1900. He harnessed the talents of librettists Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa (with whom Puccini had created La bohème and Tosca) to adapt Cio-Cio-San’s tragic tale for the operatic stage. Although the premiere at La Scala, Milan, in 1904 was poorly received, that same year Puccini revised and restaged the opera for performances in Brescia, to great acclaim. Madama Butterfly quickly became a hugely popular opera with performers and audiences alike, and remains one of Puccini’s most performed works.
Puccini drew on Japanese folk melodies for the score, one of his most evocative and atmospheric. In Act I, Cio-Cio-San expresses her radiant happiness in ‘Ancora un passo’, and the two lovers rapturously declare their love for each other in the passionate duet ‘Viene la sera’. In Act II the mood becomes increasingly strained, as in ‘Un bel dì vedremo’ when Cio-Cio-San longs for the ‘fine day’ when her husband will return to her. The romantic exoticism of 19th-century European images of Japan – an integral part of Madama Butterfly’s character – inspire Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s elegant production for The Royal Opera.
News and features
10 April 2017
Antonio Pappano and Ermonela Jaho unpick the opera's famous score with a musical masterclass.
30 March 2017
Audience reviews of The Royal Opera's live cinema relay of Puccini's masterpiece, starring Ermonela Jaho.
29 March 2017
Puccini's opera has spawned musicals, rock concept albums and comic books, but what makes it so attractive to artists from other fields?
28 March 2017
Cio-Cio-San’s much-loved aria is a perfect and painful encapsulation of the tragedy at the opera’s heart.
28 March 2017
Audience reviews of Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s elegant Royal Opera production.
27 March 2017
The opera about a heartbroken Japanese geisha will be conducted by Music Director of The Royal Opera Antonio Pappano and star Ermonela Jaho.
Madama Butterfly (IPA: [maˈdaːma ˈbatterflai]; Madame Butterfly) is an opera in three acts (originally two) by Giacomo Puccini, with an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. The opera is based in part on the short story "Madame Butterfly" (1898) by John Luther Long, which in turn was based partially on stories told to Long by his sister Jennie Correll and partially on the semi-autobiographical 1887 French novel Madame Chrysanthème by Pierre Loti. Long's version was dramatized by David Belasco as a one-act play, Madame Butterfly: A Tragedy of Japan, which, after premiering in New York in 1900, moved on to London, where Puccini saw it in the summer of that year. The original version of the opera, in two acts, had its premiere on 17 February 1904 at Teatro alla Scala in Milan. It was poorly received, despite such notable singers as soprano Rosina Storchio, tenor Giovanni Zenatello and baritone Giuseppe De Luca in its lead roles; this was due in part to a late completion by Puccini, and thus inadequate time for rehearsals. Puccini revised the opera, splitting act 2 into two (with the Humming Chorus as a bridge to what became act 3) and making other changes. Success ensued, starting with the first performance, on 28 May 1904 in Brescia. Madama Butterfly is a staple of the operatic repertoire around the world, ranked 6th by Operabase; Puccini's La bohème and Tosca rank 3rd and 5th.