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date: 06 June 2020

Madama Butterfly (‘Madam Butterfly’)locked

  • Julian Budden

Extract

(‘Madam Butterfly’)

Tragedia giapponese in two acts by Giacomo Puccini to a libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica after David Belasco’s play Madame Butterfly, itself based on John Luther Long’s short story, which in turn was based partly on Pierre Loti’s tale Madame Chrysanthème; Milan, Teatro alla Scala, 17 February 1904 (revised version, Brescia, Teatro Grande, 28 May 1904).

Puccini was seized with the subject after seeing Belasco’s play performed in London in June 1900, and he immediately applied to Belasco for the rights. These, however, were not officially granted until September of the following year. In the meantime Puccini had sent a copy of Long’s story to Illica, who drew up a scheme in two parts. The first, originally intended as a prologue, derived exclusively from Long and showed the wedding of Pinkerton and Cio-Cio-San (called Butterfly by her friends); the second covered the action of Belasco’s play and was divided into three scenes, the first and last being set in Butterfly’s house and the second in the American consulate. As Giacosa proceeded with the versification the prologue expanded into Act 1 and the first scene of the second part into Act 2, while Illica’s intention of retaining Long’s ending (with Butterfly’s suicide interrupted by the arrival of her child and the maid Suzuki who bandaged her wounds) was overruled in favour of Belasco’s final catastrophe. Not until ...

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