Madama Butterfly

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorHigh School, 11th grade February 2008

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Madama Butterfly When asked to go view a live performance there were no doubts in my mind that I would go see Giacomo Puccini's Madama Butterfly. The story of Cio-cio-san, the eternally faithful heroine, is one of the most wrenching and well known in all of opera. A young geisha is so blinded by hope for a better life that she does not see the truth about the man she loves until it is far too late. There is more to this story than we often see. The culture conflict between the East and West is just beneath the surface. In 1900, Japan was discovering the West, both the arrogance and the promise, for the first time. During that time, hundreds of Japanese women married American servicemen and immigrated to America. Countless others suffered the cruel fate of Madama Butterfly.

Act one takes place in Japan in the early twentieth century.

On a flowering terrace above Nagasaki harbor, U.S. Navy Lieutenant B. F. Pinkerton inspects the house he has leased from a marriage broker, Goro, who has just procured him three servants and a geisha wife, Cio-Cio-San, known as Madama Butterfly played was by Xiu Wei Sun. In act one we witness Pinkerton's enchantment with the fragile Cio-Cio-San. When Sharpless warns that the girl may not take her vows so lightly, Pinkerton brushes aside such scruples, saying he will one day marry a "real" American wife.

In act two which takes place Three years later, Cio-Cio-San is shown waiting for her husband's return. As Suzuki prays to her gods for aid, her mistress stands by the doorway with her eyes fixed on the harbor. When the maid shows her how little money is left, Cio-Cio-San urges her to have faith. Sharpless brings a letter from the lieutenant, but before he can read it to Cio-Cio-San, Goro comes with a suitor, the wealthy Prince Yamadori. The girl dismisses both marriage broker and prince, insisting her American husband has not deserted her. When they are alone, Sharpless again starts to read the letter and suggests Pinkerton may not return. Cio-Cio-San proudly carries forth her child, Dolore, saying that as soon as Pinkerton knows he has a son he surely will come back; if he does not, she would rather die than return to her former life. Moved by her devotion, Sharpless leaves, without having revealed the full contents of the letter. Cio-Cio-San, on the point of despair, hears a cannon report; seizing a spyglass, she discovers Pinkerton's ship entering the harbor. Delirious with joy, she orders Suzuki to help her fill the house with flowers. As night falls, Cio-Cio-San, Suzuki and the child begin their vigil.

By act three dawn breaks, and Suzuki insists that Cio-Cio-San gets some rest. Before long, Sharpless enters with Pinkerton, followed by Kate, his new wife. When Suzuki realizes who the American woman is, she collapses in despair but agrees to aid in breaking the news to her mistress. When Cio-Cio-San comes forth expecting to find him, she finds Kate instead. Guessing the truth, the shattered Cio-Cio-San agrees to give up her child if his father will return for him. Then, sending even Suzuki away, she takes out the dagger with which her father committed suicide and bows before a statue of Buddha, choosing to die with honor rather than live in disgrace. As she raises the blade, Suzuki pushes the child into the room. Sobbing farewell, Cio-Cio-San sends him into the garden to play, then stabs herself.

From the time Cio-Cio-San took out the dagger till the time most of the people left The Academy of Music I sat and wept for the unfortunate life Madama Butterfly encountered. The acting in this opera was so good, so exquisite and so seamless that I hade felt as though that I in fact was an observer of something going on in real time. I never thought that I would be moved so much by the outstanding performance put on by actors. It was amazing how the theater united the past and present in such a unique cultural experience.

Thus all of the actors fit their part very well. The actors did not make any mistakes visible to the audience, as a viewer the performance was very well orchestrated and very well rehearsed. The actors were able to move the audience when they needed to and make them brake out in laughter when they so pleased. The lighting was very dramatic it appeared to me as very low-key lighting, which had emphasized diffused shadows. The music was a key element and helped the actors set the mood. Special effects like lightning were a big plus in the production. It made the viewere feel as though this in fact