We didn’t know much about Madama Butterfly beyond the basics – it’s about east meets west resulting in a cultural misunderstanding, there’s kick ass aria – Un bel di, and like most operas named for their heroines, the title character dies at the end.
There’s a 1930s film version which is not an opera or even a musical, starring nice Jewish girl Sylvia Sydney as the geisha-wife, and Cary Grant as the American, Pinkerton. I never saw the whole thing, but I did catch the last few minutes, in which Cio-Cio San explains to her child that he’s going to be white and American now, and that’s for the best. Then she offs herself, so that he will grow up never knowing the awful truth of his mixed heritage.
Fortunately, there’s none of that in Puccini’s version. Pinkerton is a bumbling American, a callow young man who confides in the Counsel in the first act that he is not taking his temporary marriage seriously. He’s warned that his bride might, and he ignores the warning. It’s clear he’s going to leave her and he’s going to take an American wife. Everyone – including all the other Japanese – understands this, except for Butterfly herself. She is after all only Continue reading Idiots at the Opera — Madama Butterfly, Now with Puppets