Madama Butterfly

Madama Butterfly
Opera by Giacomo Puccini
Hohenstein Madama Butterfly.jpg
Original 1904 poster by Adolfo Hohenstein
Librettist
LanguageItalian
Based onJohn Luther Long's short story "Madame Butterfly"
Premiere
17 February 1904 (1904-02-17)
La Scala, Milan

Madama Butterfly (IPA: [maˈdaːma ˈbatterflai]; Madam Butterfly) is an opera in three acts (originally two) by Giacomo Puccini, with an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa.

It is based on the short story "Madame Butterfly" (1898) by John Luther Long, which in turn was based on stories told to Long by his sister Jennie Correll and on the semi-autobiographical 1887 French novel Madame Chrysanthème by Pierre Loti.[1][2][3] Long's version was dramatized by David Belasco as the one-act play Madame Butterfly: A Tragedy of Japan, which, after premiering in New York in 1900, moved to London, where Puccini saw it in the summer of that year.[4]

The original version of the opera, in two acts, had its premiere on 17 February 1904 at La Scala in Milan. It was poorly received, despite having such notable singers as soprano Rosina Storchio, tenor Giovanni Zenatello and baritone Giuseppe De Luca in lead roles. This was due in part to a late completion by Puccini, which gave inadequate time for rehearsals. Puccini revised the opera, splitting the second act in two, with the Humming Chorus as a bridge to what became Act III, and making other changes. Success ensued, starting with the first performance on 28 May 1904 in Brescia.[5]

Madama Butterfly has become a staple of the operatic repertoire around the world, ranked 6th by Operabase; Puccini's La bohème and Tosca rank 3rd and 5th.[6]

Versions

Zora Jehličková (Butterfly) and Blanka Vítková (Suzuki) in a 1985 production of Madame Butterfly at the National Theatre, Prague
Geraldine Farrar as Butterfly, 1907

Puccini wrote five versions of the opera. The original two-act version,[7] which was presented at the world premiere at La Scala on 17 February 1904, was withdrawn after the disastrous premiere. Puccini then substantially rewrote it, this time in three acts. This second version[8] was performed on 28 May 1904 in Brescia, where it was a great success. It was this second version that premiered in the United States in 1906, first in Washington, D.C., in October, and then in New York in November, performed by Henry Savage's New English Opera Company (so named because it performed in English-language translations).

In 1906, Puccini wrote a third version,[9] which was performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. In 1907, Puccini made several changes in the orchestral and vocal scores, and this became the fourth version,[10] which was performed in Paris.

In 1907, Puccini made his final revisions to the opera in a fifth version,[11][12] which has become known as the "Standard Version" and is the one which is most often performed around the world. However, the original 1904 version is occasionally performed, such as for the opening of La Scala's season on 7 December 2016, with Riccardo Chailly conducting.[13]