Giacomo Puccini

Madama Butterfly (Madame Butterfly), opera

    Description by Meredith Gailey

    Giacomo Puccini furthered his reputation as one of the leading figures in Italian opera of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when he composed one of the world's most popular operas, Madama Butterfly, in 1904. It is on this work, along with La bohème and Tosca, that his fame rests. Influenced by Verdi, Wagner, Debussy, Lehár, and Stravinsky, he has been called a Massenet without the urbanity. His ability to master the verismo style, while blending in romanticism and exoticism, is most visible in the plot of Madama Butterfly, a tragic love story set in Japan. The work was written approximately 20 years after his first opera, Le Villi, gained the attention of the publisher Giulio Ricordi. From there Puccini worked with Toscanini, and was introduced, by Ricordi, to the talented librettists Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica, with whom he worked closely for several years. Together, they produced Manon Lescaut, La bohème, and Tosca, prior to completing Madama Butterfly.

    The inspiration for the plot came from an American play by David Belasco, which captured the composer's immediate interest when he saw it in London. Based on the heartbreak of Madama Butterfly, a 15-year-old Japanese girl, who abandons her people and her religion in a marriage to Pinkerton, a United States Naval Lieutenant, and in a conversion to Christianity, the work undoubtedly had greater meaning to its American audiences following the occupation of U.S. troops in Asia, during the mid- and late twentieth century. In addition to its powerful story line, the solos contained in the opera achieved unprecedented fame. During a three-year wait for her husband's return from the U.S., Madame Butterfly sings what has probably become known as the most popular soprano aria ever written, "Un bel di vedremo" (One day he will come back). Anguished when her husband returns with another wife, Butterfly commits suicide, bringing the opera to a dramatic close.

    The original version in two acts was first performed at La Scala, Milan, on February 17, 1904, where it was nearly hissed off the stage, in part because of the excessive length of the second act. Retreating to the country, Puccini recast the work, deleting a song from the first act and dividing the second act into two. The revision was presented at Brescia on May 28, 1904, where it began its long and triumphant career. Shortly thereafter, it was performed in English in Washington, D.C., by Henry W. Savage Company at the Belasco Theatre, on October 15, 1906, and also at the Metropolitan Opera House and Covent Garden.

    Parts/Movements

    1. No. 1a, E soffitto
    2. No. 1b, Questa è la cameriera
    3. No. 2, Dovunque al mondo
    4. No. 3a, Ed è bella la sposa?
    5. No. 3b, Amore o grillo
    6. No. 4a, Ah! ah! quanto cielo!
    7. No. 4b, Ancora un passo
    8. No. 5a, Gran ventura
    9. No. 5b, L'imperial Commissario
    10. No. 6, Vieni, amor mio!
    11. No. 7a, Ieri son salita tutta sola
    12. No. 7b, Ed eccoci in famiglia
    13. No. 7c, Bimba, bimba, non piangere [Dearest, my dearest, weep no more]
    14. No. 8a, Viene la sera [Ja, es ward Abend]
    15. No. 8b, Bimba, dagli occhi [Mädchen, in deinen Augen liegt ein zauber, Ah, love me a little]
    16. No. 8c, Vogliatemi bene
    17. No. 8d, Un po' di vero c'e
    18. No. 9, E lzaghi e lzanami
    19. No. 10, Un bel di vedremo [Eines Tages sehn wir, One fine day]
    20. No. 11a, C'e. Entrate
    21. No. 11b, Ora a noi
    22. No. 11c, Ebbene, che fareste
    23. No. 11d, E questo?
    24. No. 12, Che tua madre
    25. No. 13a, Il cannone del porto!
    26. No. 13b, Scuoti quella fronda di ciliego
    27. No. 13c, Tutti i fior
    28. No. 14, Coro a bocca chiusa
    29. No. 15, Intermezzo
    30. No. 16, Già il sole!
    31. No. 17a, Povera Butterfly
    32. No. 17b, Ve lo dissi?
    33. No. 17c, Io so che alle sue pene
    34. No. 18a, Non ve l'avevo detto?
    35. No. 18b, Addio, fiorito asil [Leb wohl, mein Blütenreich]
    36. No. 18c, Glielo dirai?
    37. No. 19a, Che vuol da me
    38. No. 19b, Come una mosca prigioniera
    39. No. 20a, Con onor muore chi non puo serbar vita con onore
    40. No. 20b, Tu? tu? piccolo iddio

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Warner Classics
    2016 Sony Classical 88985311342
    2016 Metropolitan Opera 811357018309
    2016 Metropolitan Opera 811357018224
    2014 Warner Classics 634099
    2014 Gala GL 100820
    2013 Broken Audio BRAU 1002
    2012 Decca 4784153
    2012 Decca
    2012 Urania / Urania Records 178
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon 001572002
    2011 Documents / Membran 232808
    2011 Decca / Deutsche Grammophon
    2011 Alto 2015
    2010 Myto Records 00239
    2010 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 5099945639
    2009 EMI Classics 64187
    2009 EMI Classics / EMI Classics France 2127112
    2009 Document / Documents / Documents Classics 220721
    2009 Decca 001268602
    2009 ZYX Music 10081-2
    2008 Opera D'Oro 1484
    2008 EMI Classics
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099921546
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099921589
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 0734417
    2008 Decca 001064502
    2008 Warner Classics
    2008 EMI Classics 12946
    2008 Kultur 4347
    2008 Dynamic 599/1-2
    2008 Decca
    2008 EMI Classics 11973
    2008 Decca 4759404
    2007 BRV 9810
    2007 BRV 9904
    2007 Allegro Corporation 9910
    2007 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 0946395918
    2007 Royal Opera House Heritage Series 6
    2007 Urania 22311
    2007 GOP Great Opera Performances 66365
    2007 Preiser Records 20050
    2007 Universal Distribution
    2006 RCA 82622
    2006 EMI Music Distribution 67720
    2006 Document 224102
    2006 Decca 455874
    2006 Golden Melodram 50058
    2004 Decca 473 997-210DC9
    2004 Opera D'Oro 7017
    2004 IMP Golden Legacy 790672
    2003 Hardy 6016
    2003 Naxos 8110254-55
    2003 Sony Classical Essential Classics 91135
    2003 VAI Audio 1220
    2003 Decca 473045
    2002 Opera D'Oro 5007
    2002 Naxos 110183-84
    2002 Myto Records 21254
    2002 EMI Classics 567885
    2002 Warner Fonit 43551
    2002 Decca
    2002 EMI Music Distribution 67888
    2002 Pearl 0172
    2002 Naxos 660078-79
    2001 Legacy Entertainment CBX001
    2001 Chandos 3070
    2001 Opera D'Oro 1284
    2001 Opera D'Oro 1273
    2001 Myto Records 13248
    2001 Opera D'Oro 5002
    2000 BMG Special Products 6506
    2000 Pegasus (Pinnacle) 30
    2000 BMG Special Products 75517456602
    1999 Pearl 9290
    1999 Decca
    1999 London 452594
    1998 Opera D'Oro 1150
    1998 Testament 2168
    1998 Sony Music Distribution 62765
    1997 RCA Victor Living Stereo 68884
    1997 EMI Music Distribution 56298
    1996 Sony Music Distribution 69258
    1996 Arts Music 47161
    1996 Arkadia 78004
    1996 Vox 5155
    1996 Romophone 89001
    1995 Laserlight 14280
    1995 Capriccio Records 60009
    1995 VAI Audio 1054
    1995 Centaur Records 2196
    1994 London 440230
    1994 Naxos 660015
    1992 Deutsche Grammophon 437636
    1991 London 424531
    1990 EMI Music Distribution 69654
    1990 CBS Records 35181
    1990 RCA 4145
    1990 EMI Music Distribution 63634
    1988 Deutsche Grammophon 423567
    1987 EMI Music Distribution 47959
    1987 London 4175772
    Great Opera Performances 731
    Arkadia 78030
    Decca 470577
    Legato Classics 210
    Grammofono 2000 78673/74
    Decca 411634
    Fonit-Cetra Italia 010
    Eklipse 16
    Ornamenti 112
    Somerset Entertainment 50865
    Enterprise 4149