Madama Butterfly

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Madama Butterfly (Madame Butterfly) is an opera in three acts (originally two acts) by Giacomo Puccini, with an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. Puccini based his opera in part on the short story "Madame Butterfly" (1898) by John Luther Long, which was dramatized by David Belasco. Puccini also based it on the novel Madame Chrysanthème (1887) by Pierre Loti. According to one scholar, the opera was based on events that actually occurred in Nagasaki in the early 1890s.[1]

The original version of the opera, in two acts, had its premiere on February 17, 1904, at La Scala in Milan. It was very poorly received despite the presence of such notable singers as soprano Rosina Storchio, tenor Giovanni Zenatello and baritone Giuseppe De Luca in the lead roles. This was due in large part to the late completion and inadequate time for rehearsals. Puccini revised the opera, splitting the second act into two acts and making other changes. On May 28, 1904, this version was performed in Brescia and was a huge success.

The opera is set in the city of Nagasaki. Japan's best-known opera singer Tamaki Miura won international fame for her performances as Cio-Cio San; her statue, along with that of Puccini, can be found in Nagasaki's Glover Garden.

Butterfly is a staple of the standard operatic repertoire for companies around the world and it is the most-performed opera in the United States, where it ranks as Number 1 in Opera America's list of the 20 most-performed operas in North America.[2]


Production history

Puccini wrote five versions of the opera. The original version[3] was in two acts and had its premiere on February 17, 1904, at La Scala in Milan. After a disastrous premiere, Puccini withdrew the opera and substantially rewrote it, this time in three acts. This second version[4] was performed on May 28, 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, by Henry Savage's New English Opera Company (so named because it performed in English-language translations).

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