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Madame Butterfly story

American naval officer, Pinkerton, and some friends are being entertained in a geisha house. He is bewitched by one particularly beautiful geisha and Goro the marriage broker points out that the young girl in question, Butterfly, can be purchased as a ‘bride’. Butterfly is little more than a child and believes this to be a serious marriage. She betrays her religion and adopts her husband’s Christian faith, committing herself to him forever.

Butterfly and Pinkerton are married, but the festivities are interrupted when the Bonze, a Japanese holy man, arrives to denounce Butterfly for converting to Christianity. He declares her an outcast and the guests all depart. Butterfly prepares for her wedding night, and though she has been disgraced and feels shy she soon finds freedom in the arms of her lover. Dawn finds Pinkerton departing for his ship and the start of Butterfly’s patient vigilance.

Three years have passed and Butterfly has borne Pinkerton a son. As if in answer to Butterfly’s blind determination and faith that Pinkerton will return, Sharpless appears with a letter from him. The news is not good. Pinkerton has no plans to return. 

As spring breaks Goro appears with a new suitor for Butterfly. However, when the men think they have won her over she chases them from her house and is stopped only by the cannon on the harbour announcing the arrival of Pinkerton’s ship. Butterfly waits for her husband, but when day breaks there is still no sign of him.

Pinkerton shares an intimate moment with his American wife, Kate, before meeting the Consulate. They arrive at the hilltop but, as memories of Butterfly and the thought of seeing her again overwhelm him, Pinkerton flees from the scene. Butterfly hears the noise outside and runs from the house. Instead of finding her husband she finds instead his wife and her own bitter destiny. Though filled with grief and desperation Butterfly accepts Kate as Pinkerton’s wife and surrenders into her care her last reason for living, her child.

Left alone, deserted by her family, husband, religion and child, Butterfly retreats back to the only thing she has left – her culture. In this culture, freedom from life’s dishonour can be found through ritual suicide. Her father’s Samurai sword, her only inheritance, frees Butterfly at last.


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