MADAMA BUTTERFLY Student Guide | Opera Company of Philadelphia

Page 1

and The School District of Philadelphia Present

Giacomo Puccini’s

Madama Butterfly Final Dress Rehearsal Wednesday, October 7, 2009 at 2:00 p.m. at the Academy of Music


A Family Guide to

Pennsylvania’s standards in education call for students to show what they know and are able to do and children need to share what they have discovered or learned. Thus, the title of our program is Sounds of Learning™. It reflects our belief that children must be actively engaged in sharing ideas. The Sounds of Learning™ workbook and teacher guide will integrate with local core literacy curriculum in many ways. Just as opera is a uniquely integrated art, combining orchestra, voice, literature, drama, and dance, Sounds of Learning™ is an interdisciplinary and student-centered program. The goal of the Active Learning sections is to have your children engaged in the process of self-teaching. They will be able to show how they have gained insights into their learning by drawing, writing, and discussing the issues most relevant to them. In this way, students demonstrate what they can do with what they know. We believe the family is the most important foundation to learning. Let your kitchen table become a classroom where your children can build their knowledge of opera and the humanities. As you join in the teaching and learning process with your children, watch their eyes sparkle. Opera is a communal celebration, so too should be your children’s education. In reading the libretto, we suggest that you and your family members take turns reading particular roles. Dr. Ellen Winner of Harvard’s Project Zero found that: “drama helps to build verbal skills that transfer to new materials;” helps students in “reading readiness and achievement;” and “oral and written language development.” (Journal of Aesthetic Education, v34, #3/4, Fall/Winter, 2000.) In preparing for the opera, we suggest you purchase one of EMI’s excellent audio or video recordings of this opera. We are grateful to EMI for offering us their libretti for use in our program. Together, we hope to build future audiences for, and performers of, the arts.

Goals and Objectives of Sounds of Learning™ • • • • • •

Improve literacy rates by using the opera’s libretto to teach courses across the curriculum Understand the plot, characters, and their motivations Learn something about the composer, and others involved in writing the opera Know something of the historic and social context of the story Know some key musical elements, recognize certain melodies, differentiate between voices Understand the role music plays by expressing emotions and heightening the dramatic experience • Understand the various elements of producing opera and the functions of those involved; e.g. conductor, director, set designer, technical crew, etc. • Develop the ability to make judgments about the opera, production, and performance. • Relate incidents in the opera to those of the present day

Best Practices in Arts Education is sponsored by Pennsylvania Alliance for Arts Education, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Contents Table of

Opera 101: Getting Ready for the Opera 2 4 5 6 7

A Brief History of Western Opera Philadelphia’s Academy of Music Opera Etiquette 101 There’s a Place for You at Settlement Music School Opera - Online!

Relating Opera to History: The Culture Connection 8 10 12 13

The Man Behind the Music: Giacomo Puccini What in the World? A Timeline of Important Events The Fascinating Geisha The Kimono of Japan

Libretto and Production Information 14 15 16 34 35 35


Madama Butterfly: Troubled Beginning Madama Butterfly: Plot Synopsis Madama Butterfly: Libretto Visual Artist Jun Kaneko Living a Dream: Soprano Ermonela Jaho Madama Butterfly: Discussion Questions


Check out our website for additional content! Here you’ll find more information on the opera, its themes, lessons, and links to even more fascinating material. See page 7 for more details.

A Brief History of


Western Opera

Theatrical performances that use music, song and dance to tell a story can be found in many cultures. Opera is just one example of music drama. In its 400-year history each opera has been shaped by the times in which it was created and tells us much about those who participated in the art form as writers, composers, performers, and audience members. The first works to be called operas were created in Italy at the end of the sixteenth century. They were inspired by a group of intellectuals known as the Camerata who, like many thinkers of their time in the late Renaissance, admired the culture of the ancient Greeks. They proposed the invention of a new type of musical theater that would imitate Greek drama’s use of music. The result was a series of operas based on Greek myths, starting with Dafne by Jacopo Peri in 1598. The most famous work of this early period is Claudio Monteverdi’s Orfeo (1607), based on the myth of Orpheus. These early operas had all the basic elements that we associate with opera today, including songs, instrumental accompaniments, dance, costumes, and scenery.

These early operas were performed in the courts of Italian noblemen, but soon opera became Claudio Monteverdi popular with the general public. 1567-1643 Europe at the time had a growing middle class with a taste for spectacular entertainment. As opera’s popularity grew, so did the complexity of operas and the level of spectacle. Many opera houses had elaborate machinery that could be used to create special effects such as flying actors and crumbling buildings. There was much debate about whether an excess of visual elements in opera detracted from the quality of the music and drama. Some people even worried that too much comedy in opera could lead to immorality among the public! During the period from about 1600 to 1750, the Baroque period in music, Italian opera spread across Europe. In fact the Italian style of opera was so popular that even though other countries and regions often had their own traditions of musical drama, the Italian form was usually preferred. George Frederick Handel was a German-born composer who lived and worked in England, but his operas such as Julius Caesar (1724) were in the Italian language and used an Italian style of music. The only nation to develop a national tradition to

A tense scene from Act II of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. (l-r: bass Richard Bernstein, baritone Simone Alberghini and sopranos Christine Brandes and Mary Dunleavy.)

Bass Kevin Glavin gets a close shave from baritone Roberto DeCandia in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville.

rival the Italian was France, where operas often included ballets inserted into the story. JeanBaptiste Lully and Jean-Philippe Rameau are the most famous French Baroque opera composers. By the middle of the seventeenth century Europe was changing. The growing middle class was more influential than ever, and people were starting to talk about new forms of government and organization in society. Soon the American and French Revolutions (1776 and 1789) would seek to establish the first modern democracies. Music was changing, too. Composers abandoned the Baroque era’s complicated musical style and began to write simpler music with more expressive melodies. Opera composers could write melodies that allowed characters to express their thoughts and feelings more believably. One of the first operas to use this new style was Cristoph Willibald Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice (1762). With the new democratic sentiments came interest in operas about common people in familiar settings, rather than stories from ancient mythology. A good example is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro (1786), in which a servant outsmarts a count. Several of Mozart’s operas remain among the most popular today. They include Figaro, Don Giovanni (1788), Così fan tutte (1790), and The Magic Flute (1791). In the nineteenth century operas continued to grow more diverse in their subject matter, forms, and national styles. The Italian tradition continued in the bel canto movement. Operas written in this style, which means “beautiful singing”, included arias with intricate ornamentation, or combinations of fast notes, in the melodies. The most famous bel canto composers are Vincenzo Bellini, Gaetano Donizetti and Gioacchino Rossini, whose The Barber of Seville (1816) is one of the most beloved comic operas.

Later in the century the Romantic Movement led many composers to take an interest their national identities. As a result, operas in languages other than Italian became more common, and new works often reflected pride in a country’s people, history and folklore. Among the operas that show the growth of national traditions are Carl Maria von Weber’s Der Freischütz (Germany, 1821), Mikhail Glinka’s Ruslan and Lyudmilla (Russia, 1842) and Georges Bizet’s Carmen (France, 1875). In Italy Giuseppe Verdi composed in a bold, direct style, and his operas, such as Nabucco and Macbeth, often included elements of nationalism. In Germany Richard Wagner took the Romantic style to the extreme in an ambitious series of operas known collectively as The Ring of the Nibelung (1876) based on Norse mythology. In the twentieth century opera became even more diversified and experimental, to the point that it sometimes became difficult to distinguish it from other forms of musical theater. Some composers such as Giacomo Puccini (La bohème, 1896), Claude Debussy (Pelléas et Mélisande, 1902), Richard Strauss (Salome, 1905), and Benjamin Britten (Peter Grimes, 1945) continued to write operas that were similar in many ways to those of the nineteenth century. Others, horrified by the destructive effects of World War I (1914-1919) and other aspects of modern life, created works with radically experimental and dissonant music. These operas often explored topics that were either disturbing (Wozzeck by Alban Berg, 1925) or absurdist (The Rake’s Progress by Igor Stravinsky, 1951). American opera also came into its own in this century, beginning with George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess (1935) which incorporated jazz and blues styles of music. In the latter part of the century a repetitive and hypnotic style known as minimalism was exemplified in Phillip Glass’s Einstein on the Beach (1976), a piece that would hardly be recognized as an opera by earlier standards. The late twentieth century even saw a return to some of the traits of Romantic opera in works such as John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles (1991). Today, opera is a living art form in which both new works and those by composers of the past continue to be performed. It remains to be seen what the future of opera will be, but if history is any indication, it will be shaped by the creativity of librettists, composers and other artists responding the changing times in which they live.


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 1756-1791


Academy of Music


You will attend the opera at Philadelphia’s Academy of Music, the country’s oldest grand opera house still used for its original purpose - performing opera! It is a very grand opera house with a huge chandelier and four levels. Its design was based on the famous La Scala opera house in Milan, Italy. Finding the money to build an opera house in Philadelphia was difficult, but enough money was raised by 1854. On October 13th a plot of land was bought on the corner of Broad and Locust Streets to build the opera house. Fifteen architects entered a competition to see who would design the Academy in the fall of 1854. On February 12, 1855 Gustav Rungé and Napoleon le Brun won the contest, which included a $400 prize. Within four months the ground-breaking took place. The project was so important that President Franklin Pierce, along with the governor and mayor, laid the cornerstone on July 26, 1855. The Academy opened on January 26, 1857 with a Grand Ball and Promenade Concert. The first opera presented in the brand new opera house was Giuseppe Verdi’s Il trovatore on February 25, 1857. Charles Gounod’s opera Faust had its American premiere here on November 18, 1863. On February 14, 1907, Madama Butterfly premiered to “emphatic success” with its composer, Giacomo Puccini, in attendance. The Academy of Music’s restored chandelier. Photo by Michael Bolton

Numerous presidents have visited the Academy, including Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, and Richard Nixon. Prince Charles of Wales visited the Academy in 2007. Thousands of world-famous performers have appeared on its stage, such as Peter Tchaikovsky, Sergei Rachmaninoff, George Gershwin, Igor Stravinsky, Arturo Toscanini, Marian Anderson, Maria Callas, and Luciano Pavarotti. The Academy was made a Registered National Historic Landmark in 1963. Since then, a few changes have been made to the structure. The “Twenty-First Century Project”, begun in 1996, replaced the stage floor, rigging system, and restored the historic ceiling. During 2008 the famous chandelier was rebuilt to how it looked in 1857. All of these renovations have helped the Academy remain as grand as ever. We hope you find it grand as well!

Academy Facts ›

The auditorium seats 2,897; 14 columns support the Academy’s tiers; and the auditorium is encased within a three foot thick solid brick wall.

The Academy Chandelier is 25 feet high, 50 feet in circumference, almost 17 feet in diameter, and 3,500 pounds in weight. It has 23,000 crystals on it, which, if laid out, could reach from Broad Street to Rittenhouse Square and back.

The red and gold pattern on the Academy’s stage curtain simulates that of a pineapple, a Victorian-era symbol for “welcome.”

The first-ever indoor football game was held on the Academy’s Parquet level on March 7, 1889 between University of Pennsylvania and Riverton Club of Princeton. At halftime, tug-of-war matches were held as entertainment.

1,600 people attended the first ever motion picture screening on February 5, 1870. The audience saw a couple dancing, a gymnastics routine and more during the silent film.

› ›

Air conditioning was installed in the theatre 1959.

There was no elevator for the general public in the Academy until 1990!

For more information on the Academy of Music, go to the library and take out Within These Walls, by John Francis Marion or go online to

Opera Etiquette 101 There’s nothing quite as exciting as attending the opera in a beautiful theater like the Academy of Music. You will attending the opera’s final dress rehearsal, the last chance for the artists to rehearse before opening night. The opera will be run through without a pause, just like a performance. In the center of the floor level of the Academy, the Parquet Level, you’ll notice computer monitors on a large table. The production team sits here to take notes and talk via headset with the many people backstage who make operatic magic happen. Unlike actors on television or in the movies, performers onstage are very aware of the audience. They want to share their love of performing with you. Everything you do in the audience affects what happens on stage. Because this is a working rehearsal, please refrain from talking. All of the artists need to concentrate on fine-tuning the production. You can show them how much you appreciate their work and the opportunity to come to the rehearsal by being as quiet as possible. So, please refrain from talking out of respect for the cast, musicians, the entire production team, and everyone in the theater. Give the artists and the production your full attention!

Here’s a list of do’s and don’ts so that everyone in the theater can enjoy the opera:

Please Do... • Applaud after the arias; you can shout “Bravo!” for the men and “Brava!” for the women. • Enter and exit the theater in an orderly fashion. • Please use the bathrooms before the rehearsal begins or at intermission. • Be careful in the auditorium! Because the theatre is 150 years old, it’s not necessarily designed for modern conveniences. • Turn off your cell phones and all electronic devices. • Enjoy the rehearsal. You’ve worked too hard preparing for the rehearsal not to!

ACTIVE LEARNING The picture on this page shows several patrons and famous opera characters on their way to attend an opera in the Academy of Music. Now picture yourself in their shoes. On a separate piece of paper, write a few words on what you think the trip to the opera will be like. You may want to mention coming into Philadelphia, visiting the Academy of Music, attending the opera. What will you wear? How will you and your classmates act? At what time will you meet your classmates? How may classmates will attend? Will you have a special dinner before the opera? If so, where? Will the opera be exciting and entertaining? Share your thoughts here and compare your stories with your classmates.

Don’t Forget... • Food, gum and beverages are not allowed inside the Academy of Music. • Photographs or video footage may not be taken during the performance. • No talking or whispering during the rehearsal. • No shoving, jumping, running, or spitting in the Academy of Music. • Please obey the Academy of Music ushers and staff. • Keep all objects to yourself. If you throw something, you might hurt someone and cause a disruption in rehearsal. It is grounds for removal from the auditorium. • MAKE YOUR SCHOOL PROUD!


There’s a Place for You at


Settlement Music School

Kevin Eubanks, Hollywood film composer Alex North, Star Wars director Irv Kershner, numerous members of The Philadelphia Orchestra (as well as musicians in orchestras around the country). Even scientist Albert Einstein was a Settlement Music School student! In fact, studies show that science and music use similar principles—so music lessons may help your math skills, too.

Famous Philadelphia-born actor Kevin Bacon took lessons at Settlement Music School. You can, too!

Settlement Music School is a community arts school that offers programs and activities in music, voice, dance and the related arts to help those interested achieve their greatest potential.

Settlement is dedicated to a belief that people of all ages, abilities, backgrounds, and financial circumstances deserve and will benefit from the high quality programs that Settlement offers. Founded in 1908, the School began when two young volunteer teachers offered piano lessons for a nickel. The response was so huge they raised the price to a dime to hire more teachers. A full program of instruction soon took shape, encompassing all instruments and voice and taught by professionals, including members of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Today, Settlement’s six branches reach all over Philadelphia and serve more than 9,000 pupils on site and another 6,000 through outreach programs. Students from every zip code in Philadelphia and the eight surrounding counties in Pennsylvania and New Jersey attend Settlement. The school has four Philadelphia branches (West Philadelphia, Germantown, KardonNortheast, and the original South Philadelphia school - the Mary Louise Curtis branch in Queen Village); one in Jenkintown, Montgomery County; and the newest location in Camden, NJ. An impressive list of former Settlement students has gone on to exciting careers, including actor Kevin Bacon, jazz bassist Stanley Clarke, pianist Joey DeFrancesco, Tonight Show guitarist

Settlement is a vital force in the communities it serves. It brings together students from every walk of life, providing many with opportunities otherwise unavailable to them through scholarship and financial aid. Settlement Music School helps them not only to develop musical and artistic talents, but also to build self confidence and readiness for academic and other achievements. Students who come here begin life-long friendships with other students who perform with them in ensemble and orchestra programs. One student, a current member of the Philadelphia Orchestra, still plays “gigs” on the side with a friend he met when he was 14 years old at Settlement. Students’ work at Settlement puts them in touch with the best of themselves, the best of their neighbors, and the best that the world has to offer in creative expression. And, anybody, no matter what your skill or circumstance, is accepted. Call 215320-2600 or visit Settlement’s website at for more information.

Settlement Music School Branches Mary Louise Curtis (215) 320-2600 416 Queen Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147 Germantown (215) 320-2610 6128 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19144 Kardon-Northeast (215) 320-2620 3745 Clarendon Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19114 Jenkintown Music School (215) 320-2630 515 Meetinghouse Road, Jenkintown, PA 19046 West Philadelphia (215) 320-2640 4910 Wynnefield Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19131 Camden School of Musical Arts (856) 541-6375 531-35 Market Street, Camden, NJ 08102 Visit the Settlement Music School website at

OPERA – Online!


Many of you may be studying music in your schools or privately. Where do you go if you want to learn more about Madama Butterfly, opera singers, opera-related topics and experience opera more frequently? Visit OCP’s website at: Here you can find more information about Madama Butterfly and all the operas presented by the Opera Company at absolutely no cost!

Opera Right in Your Email Inbox! Another great way to learn more is to sign up for the free weekly Sounds of Learning™ email list. Email your name, school and age to and each week we’ll send you an opera video “clip of the week” with famous opera singers singing great arias and ensembles all throughout the summer. Some will be funny, some will be thrilling, some will be dramatic, all if it will be exciting! Also included in the email will be the website of the week. We’ll feature links to singers’ websites, music links, other great music and opera websites. You can build a whole library of video clips to go back to again and again! Share the clips and links with your family and friends. Don’t forget to check out our Sounds of Learning™ blog at The blog will allow you to discuss the opera with students throughout the tri-state area! Log onto the blog and share your thoughts and views about the opera, the music, the set, the singers, the Academy of Music, coming to center city Philadelphia, the email list clip of the week and more! Other students participating in Sounds of Learning™ from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware want to hear what you have to say! Post your comments by going to:

See rehearsal photos on our website at Log on and see our Behind the Scenes area to see how a production develops from the first day of rehearsal to opening night! Also, you can download extra copies of the Sounds of Learning™ guide and past guides from this page as well. All of this content is provided for free! If you’re online, check out our myspace and facebook pages, too. Just search for Opera Company of Philadelphia!

The Man Behind the Music:

Giacomo Puccini


Giacomo Puccini was born on December 22, 1858 in Lucca, Italy. He would become one of the most popular opera composers ever. Puccini’s father, Michele, taught music at the local conservatory and was a church musician. He died when Puccini was six years old. His mother was left to support six daughters and two sons. The family was poor and his mother worried about Puccini’s future. She believed that a good education could free her children from poverty. At age nine, Puccini joined the seminary, later becoming a chorister and organist at the Cathedral of Lucca. In 1876 Puccini and his brother walked 18 miles to see a performance of Verdi’s Aida in the town of Pisa. He knew opera was his destiny. He wanted to study in the conservatory in Milan, but he couldn’t afford the tuition. Puccini’s mother wrote a letter to the Queen of Italy to get a scholarship for her son. The letter worked, but it didn’t mean that Puccini was now rich. He wrote to his mother about food, requesting a little olive oil or some beans. Puccini quipped of his lifestyle, “At five I have a thrifty meal with soup, then I light up a cigar and I go to the Galleria.” In 1882 when Puccini was 24, he submitted his first opera, Le Villi (The Willies) into a competition. He didn’t win, but it was staged two years later. The opera was a success and one critic called Puccini "the composer Italy had waited for." The publishing company G. Ricordi & Co was impressed enough to commission Puccini to write the opera Edgar, but it failed at its 1889 premiere.

Elvira Bonturi In 1884 Puccini was hired to teach Elvira Bonturi Gemignani, the wife of his friend Narciso Gemignani, to sing and play the piano. Puccini and Elvira hit it off and soon became lovers despite that she had a son and a daughter with her husband. When Elvira discovered she was pregnant with Puccini’s child, she moved out of the house with her daughter to live with the poor composer. Divorce was illegal at the time in Italy, and woman had few rights under Italian law. It was impossible for Puccini and Elvira to marry.

They moved to the lakeside village of Torre del Lago in the Tuscany region of Italy. Here Elvira gave birth to Puccini’s son, Antonio and the composer threw himself into his work. He worked very hard on his next opera, Manon Lescaut (1893). It was an immediate triumph and gave Puccini fame and success, if not wealth. At Torre del Lago he composed his three most popular operas: La bohème (1896), Tosca (1900), and Madama Butterfly (1904), which finally brought him wealth. Puccini enjoyed the relaxed life he could lead by the lake. Here he indulged in his passions: hunting, smoking cigars, technology (he frequently corresponded with Thomas Edison), and fast cars. Puccini almost died after he was in a near-fatal car accident in 1903. Ironically, Elvira’s husband died the day after the accident. His death enabled Puccini to marry Elvira after the legally imposed 10 months of widowhood.

The Manfredi Incident Perhaps that which Puccini liked the most was women. He had a long series of love affairs outside of his relationship with Elvira. He reassured her that they meant nothing to him, but as an artist, he relied on them to help his creativity. This excuse did little to calm Elvira’s terrible jealousy. One of the worst examples of Elvira’s jealousy surrounded her treatment of their maid, Doria Manfredi. A local peasant girl who had worked for the Puccinis since she was 16, Doria helped Puccini during the long recovery period after the 1903 car accident. Doria was extremely attentive to Puccini’s needs and there was an affectionate bond between the two of them. Elvira noticed this affection and her jealousy got the best of her; she assumed the two were having an affair. She threw Doria out of the house and threatened to kill her. She vowed to ruin Doria’s reputation in the small village. Elvira publicly condemned Doria and screamed insults at Doria and her relatives in the street. In a quest to catch her husband with the former maid, Elvira disguised herself in one of Puccini’s suits in the hopes of catching the two together one night.

The quiet and simple girl could take no more. In January 23, 1909 she committed suicide by taking three poisonous mercury chloride tablets. The poison worked slowly and Doria was in extruciating pain. It took three days for the poison to do its intended effect. A court ordered autopsy proved that Doria had died a virgin. Doria’s family sued Elvira for defamation and slander. Elvira was found guilty and sentenced to five months in prison. The case was settled out of court on appeal after Puccini offered the family 12,000 lire in compensation. Publicly humiliated and devastated by these events, Puccini and Elvira temporarily separated. Doria’s death would haunt Puccini for the rest of his life. He was known to place flowers on Doria’s grave from time to time.

Turandot was completed by Franco Alfano who used Puccini’s sketches to finish it. It was premiered at La Scala in Milan on April 25th, 1925. Despite Puccini’s humble beginnings, he went on to become an operatic superstar. At his death his estate was worth $4,000,000. His operas receive hundreds of performances each year. He may have died over 80 years ago, but he will live on through his soaring melodies and the passion of is operas.

ACTIVE LEARNING 1. What six cities are mentioned in this article? a. In what countries are they located? b. Can you find them on a map? 2. How old was Puccini when he went to see a production of Verdi’s Aida in Pisa?

Doria’s impact on Puccini is evident through his operas, almost as if life was imitating his art. Doria is the living embodiment of his sweet and innocent heroines Mimì, Butterfly, and Liù. Some critics say that the Turandot gave Puccini the opportunity to depict his wife and Doria through the roles of Turandot and Liù.

Back to Work After Doria’s suicide, Puccini returned to work. He finished work on the opera La fanciulla del west (The Girl of the Golden West). The opera was based on a play by American playwright David Belasco. Puccini discovered it while in America to supervise the supervise the New York premiere of his Madama Butterly, which was based on another Belasco play. Fanciulla had a successful premiere at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City and starred the famous tenor Enrico Caruso. Puccini began to work on a trio of one act operas for the Met: Il tabarro (The Cloak) about an unfaithful wife along the banks of the Seine River in Paris; Suor Angelica (Sister Angelica) about a nun that commits suicide, and Gianni Schicchi (Johnny Schicchi) based on Dante’s The Divine Comedy. The three operas were to be performed on the same night under the title Il trittico (The Triptych). The operas did not achieve the success of his previous works. In 1920 Puccini began work on Turandot, but he had difficulty finishing the opera. By 1923 he complained of a chronic sore throat which was diagnosed as throat cancer. He underwent treatment in Brussels, but died on November 24, 1924. Originally buried in Milan, Puccini’s remains were moved to a chapel in his Torre del Lago villa.

Composer Giacomo Puccini, with his trademark cigarette Photo Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 , #LC-USZ62-65802



What in the World??

Personal and Historic Events during Puccini’s Life Listed below are some historic and cultural events that took place during Puccini’s life. Events in boldface type are things that happened to Puccini; an asterisk (*) indicates events of local interest. What might it have been like to be alive at this time?

1857 1858 1861 1862 1865 1870 1873 1874 1876 1876 1877 1878 1880 1882 1883

* Philadelphia’s Academy of Music opened with a concert conducted by Tchaikovsky. Puccini was born on December 22 in Lucca, son of Michele and Albina Magi. American Civil War began. It ended in 1865. The first U.S. paper money was issued in denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, $500 and $1,000. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery throughout the U.S. * The first section of the famous boardwalk in Atlantic City, N.J. opened to the public. Suffragist Susan B. Anthony was fined $100 for trying to vote in the 1872 presidential election. * The first U.S. zoo opened in Philadelphia. A U.S. child labor law took 12 year olds out of the work force. Puccini wrote the Symphonic Prelude. He attended the opera Aïda and was very impressed. Alexander Graham Bell made the first telephone call. * The first department store was opened by John Wanamaker in Philadelphia. Puccini composed the Motet and Credo. While at the Conservatory of Lucca, Puccini composed a Mass for soloists and orchestra. He enrolled at the Conservatory in Milan and was taught by Bazzini and Ponchielli. The first string of Christmas tree lights was created by Thomas Edison. Puccini graduated from the conservatory with a bronze medal. His Capriccio Sinfonico, which he later used in his opera La bohème, was performed by the student orchestra. * The Philadelphia Phillies, then called the Quakers, played their first baseball game.


Puccini’s first opera, Le Villi, premiered on May 31 in Milan. He began to work with publisher Giulio Ricordi. His mother died. He began a long love affair with his friend’s wife.

1884 1888 1889 1890 1890 1892 1893

America's first roller coaster began operating at Coney Island, NYC. It hit a top speed of 6 mph.

1894 1895 1896

The Washington Monument opened. Puccini’s second opera Edgar premiered at La Scala on April 21 with short-lived success. Ellis Island, NYC, opened as a US immigration depot. Peanut Butter was invented as a vegetarian protein supplement for people with missing teeth. The American Pledge of Allegiance was first recited in public schools to commemorate Columbus Day. Manon Lescaut gave Puccini his first big success at Teatro Reggio in Turin on February 1. * Philadelphia observed the first Flag Day. * George Ferris introduced his Ferris Wheel at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Milton Hershey founded Hershey Foods in Pennsylvania. Frederick E. Blaisdell patented the pencil. The premiere of La bohème at Teatro Regio on February 1 was led by conductor Arturo Toscanini. The first movie theater in US opened and charged 10 cents for admission.

1900 1901 1904 1907 1908 1909 1910 1912 1914 1917 1918

Puccini’s Tosca premiered at Teatro Costanzi in Rome on January 14. The hamburger was created by Louis Lassing in Connecticut.


* The first annual Mummers parade was held in Philadelphia. Puccini married Elvira Bonturi after the death of her first husband. Madama Butterfly had a disastrous premiere at La Scala. Puccini reworked it for a successful production in Brescia on May 28. Puccini traveled to New York to see the Metropolitan Opera premieres of Madama Butterfly and Manon Lescaut. He was impressed by David Belasco’s play The Girl of the Golden West. Puccini experienced marital problems because of his jealous wife. A lawsuit was filed against her after Puccini’s servant commits suicide due to Elvira’s jealous persecutions. The 1st Lincoln-head pennies were minted. It was 95% copper and was the first United States coin to depict the likeness of a president. Puccini went to New York a second time for the premiere of La fanciulla del west on November 10, led by Arturo Toscanini and starring Enrico Caruso. The opera was based on Belasco’s play. The British ocean liner Titanic sank after hitting an iceberg. W.H. Carrier patented the air conditioner. Puccini’s operetta-inspired La rondine debuted in Monte Carlo on March 27. Puccini had his second world premiere at the Met with Il trittico on December 14. Daylight Savings Time went into effect throughout the United States for the first time.

1919 1920

* Construction began on the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s current home. It was completed in 1928.

1921 1922

Puccini began work on Turandot at Viareggio with a libretto by Adami and Simone.


After treatment for throat cancer, Puccini died of a heart attack on November 29. Two months after his death, Puccini was given the honorary title of senator. His remains were moved to Torre del Lago and reinterred in the estate chapel.


Turandot premiered incomplete at La Scala, conducted by Toscanini on April 25. Later performance included the ending as completed by Franco Alfano who used Puccini’s sketches.

The United States Congress passed the 18th amendment, prohibiting alcoholic beverages, and the 19th amendment which granted suffrage to American women.

King Tut’s tomb was discovered. Fascism came to Italy as Benito Mussolini took control of the government. Harlem Renaissance begins in the New York City borough.

ACTIVE LEARNING Explore the library or the internet and discover more events that occurred during this era. Consider making your own timeline with additional events from this period. You may also illustrate your timeline.

1. Which presidents were in office during Puccini’s lifetime? 2. What amendment granted women the right to vote and when was it made law? 3. The Philadelphia Phillies were not always called that. Under what other names did they play? Information taken from Timelines of History website at

Tenor Enrico Caruso in Puccini’s La fanciulla del west. Photo courtesy Library of Congress


The Fascinating Geisha Traditionally, many geisha were young girls from poor families who were sold to the geisha houses (called okiya) and trained from childhood. Geisha could earn a lot of money and geisha were respected in society. They would start at the lowest level, working as maids within the house, then as assistants to the house’s senior geisha, from whom they learned complex kimono traditions, the art of conversation and socializing, and how to deal with clients.

Two geisha dressed in traditional kimono as photographed by the Bains News Service. Photo: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Photo LC-B2- 5789-9

We may be familiar with geisha from movies and books like Memoirs of a Geisha, television shows, or even operas like Madama Butterfly. Puccini was fascinated by the geisha Cio-Cio San and just as they have fascinated Westerners for a century, but who were they? If translated literally, geisha means “beauty person” or “person who lives by the arts.” The geisha grew out of the Japanese taikomochi or hokan jester tradition that began in the Edo Period (16001868). Originally geisha were men who made jokes and amused guests and warriors, but through the years women began to take on these responsibilities. Like jesters, geisha are professional entertainers; unlike jesters, these highly trained women were masters of the arts including music (especially the shamisen stringed instrument), dance, calligraphy, flower arranging, tea ceremony, poetry, conversation and social graces. While schooled in the arts, geisha did not prepare or serve food. By the 1780s there were mostly female geisha and they became an important part of Japanese social culture. Geisha were a valued component in the Japanese business tradition. Businessmen and their clients got together out of the office at tea houses where strong, long-term relationships were nurtured with the help of geisha. As part of this culture, a geisha’s silence concerning what was talked about at the tea house was mandatory.

A young geisha’s training would last for many years until she was ready to be introduced as a maiko or apprentice geisha. The maiko would go to engagements with her senior geisha to learn games and socializing skills which wouldn’t be taught in the house and to seek potential clients. This training would continue until the maiko was promoted to a full-fledged geisha. Geisha were expensive and were mainly hired by the rich. Geisha were not paid by the hour, but their fee was based on the length of time it took for an incense stick to completely burn. Traditionally, the minimum payment was for four sticks which took about an hour to burn. Today, a geisha party can cost over $10,000. Geisha are sometimes confused as prostitutes. While geisha are hired to entertain, it is purely in a private social or business setting. In fact when men stopped being geisha, female geisha were forbidden from having casual physical relations for money so as not to compete with prostitutes. As with business customs, many geisha formed long-term relationships with her patrons, even choosing to take a danna, or a wealthy man who financially supports a geisha mistress. Some geisha fell in love with her danna. Geisha are still working in Japan today. In the 1920s there were over 80,000 geisha. Today there are fewer than 1,000. While they are no longer sold into an okiya, girls voluntarily begin their training in their late teens. While some women remain geisha and become financially independent, others only stay in the profession until they find a husband. Geisha are still a vital part of Japanese business life and continue to fascinate with their innocent charm. For more information on geisha visit us on the web at

The Kimono of Japan The kimono is the ancient traditional dress for the men and women of Japan. “Kimono” translated literally means “something to wear.” The kimono, although it is commonly associated with Japan, actually originated in China. Some historians claim that the kimono was brought to Japan from China by Buddhist monks in the 8th century. Others trace the kimono’s arrival in Japan to as early as the 6th century C.E. (Common Era). Regardless of the exact date when the Japanese people adopted the kimono style of clothing, it has become an important part of their culture and history. The history and design of the Japanese kimono is complicated. Each kimono is designed according to a standard size and shape so that a man or woman of any height or weight can fit into it. In the history of the kimono there have been three popular types: The osode which is a large or long-sleeved kimono (and not very common in modern Japan); the kosode which is a smaller sleeved kimono; and the furisode which is a very long and flowing type of kimono. All kimono are made from a single basic pattern, and vary a bit depending on whether the wearer is male or female. The kimono itself is hand sewn and has to be taken apart seam by seam to be cleaned, and then put back together. The kimono is traditionally made of silk, cotton, or linen. However, many kimono are now made from man-made materials. Kimono are usually sewn or woven by hand and are frequently decorated with a family crest on five different places on it. The kimono is rectangular in shape and after it is put on, it is tied with a belt-like material called an obi. The obi is a very significant part of the kimono. The way the obi is tied as well as its design and size tells a good deal about the person wearing the kimono. There is a complex but proper way to tie the obi. Tying the obi is so difficult that many people need someone to help them put it on. Kimono designs depend on a number of things including the gender, marital status, and age of the person wearing it. A young single woman, for example, would wear a

brightly colored and elaborately patterned kimono, while an older married woman would wear a kimono with a solid pattern and more somber colors like navy, grey, or black. These colors are supposed to signify the maturity and wisdom of the wearer. The cut of the kimono also varies according to the age of the wearer. The young single woman’s kimono will have longer sleeves than that of the older woman. The traditional woman’s kimono ensemble is made up of eighteen pieces. Kimono worn by men are very similar to those worn by women, except that men’s kimono are usually made with a dark solidly colored material which contains very little decoration. The design, texture and layers of the kimono are made to accommodate the season in which it is worn. In the summer men and women wear a light cotton kimono called a yukata. In the winter a hanten, a heavy cotton-padded jacket is worn over the yukata for extra warmth. Today, kimono are not worn as often as they were before the west profoundly influenced the Japanese people and style of dress. Now, kimono are worn only for special occasions (weddings, graduations, etc.). In fact, the kimono is worn so infrequently that there are schools in Japan to teach women how to wear the kimono. Today the fashions worn by Japanese women, men, and children are the same as those seen in the United States.


Have you ever wondered how geisha put on those many kimono layers? Well it can take over 20 minutes to put the entire garment on. There are several instructional video clips on youtube on how to wear a kimono. To see one of those clips, follow the link located on our website at


Madama Butterfly


Troubled Beginning Madama Butterfly is based on a play of the same name by American playwright David Belasco which was based on a short story in a magazine by John Luther Long which was based on the true story of Tsuru Yamamura, a Japanese woman who had a child with an English merchant. While Butterfly’s heroine Cio-Cio San flees Nagasaki with her child and maid in the short story, she tragically kills herself rather than live without Pinkerton and their child in both the play and the opera.

Rosina Storchio (1876–1945) who sang the world premiere of Madama Butterfly in 1904.

Puccini saw Belasco’s successful play while in London to oversee the British premiere of his opera Tosca. He fell in love with Butterfly and began writing the score in 1902; however, the composition was interrupted for several months when he was seriously injured in an auto accident. In pain and confined to a wheelchair, Puccini took more than a year to finish the score. However, once the opera was completed, Puccini felt it was his finest work. He loved Cio-Cio San more than any of his previous heroines, exclaiming: “There is no comparison between my love for Mimì, Musetta, Manon and Tosca and that love which I have in my heart for her whom I wrote music in the night.” Madama Butterfly was not always the acclaimed opera it is today. The much-anticipated opera premiered in Milan at La Scala on February 17, 1904. It was an utter disaster. Instead of applauding and cheering, the audience grunted, groaned, booed, hissed, cursed, accused the soprano of being pregnant when a gust of wind went up her kimono, shouted that the opera sounded too much like La Bohème, and more. The heart wrenching final scene in which Butterfly commits suicide was met with laughs and belittling shouts. There was not a single curtain call. Even the press was unkind; one critic called Madama Butterfly a "diabetic opera, the result of an automobile accident." Puccini was devastated. It became obvious to him, and to the public, that the unruly scene in the theater had been organized; it was not

just spontaneous disapproval. It has never been determined who plotted this scandal. However, it is generally believed that a group of rival composers and their followers sabotaged the premiere of Madama Butterfly. The overwhelming success of Puccini’s other operas, combined with his arrogance and dislike of contemporary Italian music had made him many enemies who may have organized Butterfly’s failure to toss a roadblock onto his seemingly spotless career path. Puccini withdrew the opera from La Scala immediately after the premiere and agreed to make several revisions to make the opera more appealing to the public. The revised opera was presented at a smaller theater, the Teatro Grande in Brescia (a small town outside Milan) on May 28, 1904. The reaction to the revised Butterfly was phenomenally different from the premiere. The audience was enthralled, and even demanded that several numbers be repeated. Puccini was brought on stage ten times amidst thunderous applause. Madama Butterfly, after many trials, tribulations, and five revisions, was a success, never to fail again. Madama Butterfly was soon produced throughout Europe. The opera came to the United States in 1906 and premiered in Philadelphia at the Academy of Music on February 14, 1907 with both John Luther Long and Puccini at the performance. Puccini received cheers at the end of each act from the Academy stage. Today Butterfly is the most-performed opera in America and performances frequently sell out. Its success has even helped inspire the play M. Butterfly and the musical Miss Saigon.

ACTIVE LEARNING 1. Read John Luther Long’s short story and David Belasco’s play, on our web site. How are they different than the opera?

2. Read the review of the Philadelphia premiere of Madama Butterfly online on our web site at

Madama Butterfly Plot

Synopsis ACT I:

Lieutenant Pinkerton of the U.S. Navy inspects a house overlooking Nagasaki harbor. Goro, who is brokering his marriage to Cio-Cio San, shows him around and introduces him to the cook and his future wife’s maid, Suzuki. The American consul Sharpless arrives out of breath from climbing the hill. Pinkerton describes his philosophy of the roving Yankee in search of pleasure wherever he can find it. (“Dovunque al mondo”). After sending Goro to bring his bride, who is also known as Madame Butterfly, Pinkerton tells of his infatuation with her. Sharpless warns that she may have other ideas about the marriage and he hopes that Pinkerton doesn’t hurt her. Pinkerton brushes aside his friend’s concerns and raises a toast to America (“America forever!”) and the day he will have a real American wife.

Goro returns leading Butterfly and her friends in a procession up the hill. Butterfly bows to Pinkerton and Sharpless. She tells Sharpless that she is 15 years old and that her family was once prominent but lost its position. Now she has had to earn her living as a geisha. As Butterfly’s family arrives, she shows Pinkerton her few and treasured possessions and tells him that she has visited the American mission to renounce her ancestral religion and embrace his. The Imperial Commissioner proclaims the marriage and the couple is congratulated. But the festivities are interrupted by the Bonze, Butterfly’s uncle, a Buddhist priest. He curses Butterfly for dismissing her religion. After ordering everyone to leave, Pinkerton attempts to comfort his bride and the lovers embrace (“Viene la sera”).


harbor signals the arrival of a ship and, when Butterfly and Suzuki grab a telescope and read the name of Pinkerton’s ship, they are overwhelmed. After Butterfly and Suzuki gather blossoms and scatter petals throughout the home (“Squoti quella fronda”), they sit with the child into night, waiting for Pinkerton while keeping watch over the harbor.

ACT II, Scene 2: As dawn arrives, Butterfly sings a lullaby and takes the child to another room where they both fall asleep. Pinkerton arrives with Sharpless and, when Suzuki asks about the identity of the woman with them, Sharpless says that it is Pinkerton’s new wife, Kate. They want to make sure that the child has a good American upbringing. Pinkerton expresses his grief and the guilt he feels for abandoning Butterfly, and leaves unable to face her (“Addio, fiorito asil”). When Butterfly rushes in and realizes the situation, she agrees to give them her child, but only on the condition that Pinkerton will return to get him. After everyone leaves, Butterfly takes her father’s dagger and, after bidding farewell to her child (“Tu? Tu? Piccolo iddio”), stabs herself as Pinkerton desperately calls her name.

ACT II, Scene 1: Three years later. With Suzuki by her side, Butterfly waits for her husband’s return, which he has promised will be ‘when the robin builds his nest again.’ Butterfly imagines his return and the joy it will bring (“Un bel dì”). Sharpless arrives with a letter from Pinkerton but on his heels is Goro with a potential husband for Butterfly, the wealthy Prince Yamadori. Butterfly rejects the offer of marriage and after Yamadori and Goro leave, Sharpless begins to read the letter, which says that Pinkerton will not return to Butterfly. When Sharpless suggests that she reconsider Yamadori’s offer, Butterfly furiously fetches her small child and asks “And this?” (“E questo?”) Too astonished to tell her more from the letter, Sharpless leaves, promising to tell Pinkerton of the child. A cannon shot from the

Butterfly arrives with her friends to meet Lieutenant B. F. Pinkerton Photo from Opera Omaha’s production of Kaneko’s Madama Butterfly, courtesy Takashi Hatekeyama, Kaneko Studios

Visual Artist

Jun Kaneko


Jun Kaneko is a world-famous artist whose works are on display in museums around the world – including the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Born in1942 in Nagoya, Japan, both Jun’s mother and father were dentists. Jun’s mother wanted to study art professionally, but her father encouraged her to become a dentist. She was an artist at heart: while she filled patients’ cavities during the day, she filled canvases with her art at night. When Jun was in grade school he took his required weekly art class. He would draw and paint at home, but never showed anyone his work. His mother found his work and secretly showed it to several respected artists who happened to be her patients. They all thought he should study art seriously. His mother helped him find his first tutor, Satoshi Ogawa. Jun studied with Mr. Ogawa in the morning and went to high school at night. This style of education worked well for Jun as he found the traditional Japanese educational system too strict with no room for creativity. When he was twenty-one, Jun left Japan for the United States to study art. He stayed with Satoshi Ogawa’s friend Jerry Rothman in California. Jerry, who spoke a little Japanese, agreed to help young Jun. Jun did not speak English, and learned from what he could see. His first real encounter with ceramics was while house-sitting for Jerry’s friends, Fred Marer and his wife, who later became his friends. The Marers had a very large ceramic collection and they often brought Jun to visit the studios of the artists whose pieces they collected – and again Jun absorbed all he could through observation. Jun at work on one of his famous ceramic heads. This head measures 101”h x 70”w x 77”d. Photo: Takashi Hatakeyama

Jun began taking painting classes at the Chouinard Art Institute. Since he was still learning English, he used his eyes instead of his ears to learn the techniques taught in class. Later, Kaneko would say, “everything we look at comes from our intuition and feeling, which comes from our human body.” Jun has held this belief since his early days as an artist. If he had not trusted his intuition in a place where he could not speak the language, his talents might have gone undiscovered. The famous artist Peter Voulkos, who taught in the ceramics department at the University of California in Berkeley, hired Jun to be his assistant.Jun was able to go to ceramics classes even though he wasn’t enrolled, and shared available workspace. The artist developed his own style with ceramics. Instead of imposing his personal ideas upon a piece, he allows the art to come to him, rather than chasing it with his own images and ideas. Jun has slowly entered the world of opera. He designed the sets and costumes for our stunning production of Madama Butterfly. Originally mounted for Opera Omaha, this production has been seen all over the United States. After seeing Jun’s amazing Butterfly production, OCP Artistic Director Robert B. Driver decided to bring the production to Philadelphia and also asked Jun to create a new production for Beethoven’s Fidelio, which premiered in October 2008. With pieces in museums and on display throughout the world, Jun Kaneko’s works today balance structure and creativity. His artwork bridges his Eastern heritage and his Western home. Known for his large scaled ceramic pieces that can be over ten feet tall, Jun has brought a unique voice to the art world. Peter Voulkos said that Jun “has become a true visionary, combining Eastern and Western thought, propelling the medium towards a universal language.”

ACTIVE LEARNING 1. Visit Jun’s website at 2. Can you and your classmates find Nagoya, Japan on the map? How far away is it from Tokyo?


Jun’s mammoth dangos will be on display throughout Philadelphia this fall. Ask your teacher for a list of locations where the dangos can be seen.

Living a Dream:

Soprano Ermonela Jaho Singing the role of Cio-Cio San, the title role in Madama Butterfly, is Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho (ĕr-mō-nĕl-lă yă-hō). Ermonela was drawn to the opera when she and her older brother went to see Giuseppe Verdi’s opera La Traviata when she was thirteen years old. Ermonela said, “Together with my big brother I entered the theatre and my heart beat changed as the deep, sad and romantic sounds of the prelude began. Even though I did not understand all the words I just knew everything that was being said somehow. The beautiful arias where music expresses all the emotion that words and story are trying to convey made me feel one with the music. Somehow I wanted to sing out every feeling that I had, in front of everybody. No filters, no restraints, no self control, nothing.... Just let the heart follow the music and somehow touch other people's hearts too.” Growing up in a musical home, Ermonela and her family would sing together at family parties and functions always a capella, or without accompaniment. Her parents, brothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins would improvise and make up harmonies as they sang traditional Albanian folk songs, which always impressed her. She started to study the violin at the age of five but found it too difficult. So then she switched to singing which she thought was much easier! Learning to sing properly can take a long time, and Ermonela has been dedicated to learning the proper way to sing. She went to the Licieu Artistik in Tirana, Albania, and then continued to study at the Academy of Fine Arts, also in Tirana. While studying in Albania, she won a scholarship to study singing at the Academy of Mantova in Italy. Then she completed her studies at the Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome, Italy, where she studied singing and how to play the piano. At the same time, she also completed a Diploma in Phoniatry at the Gemelli University in Rome, Italy. Ermonela made her debut with the Opera Company of Philadelphia in one of her favorite roles, the seamstress Mimì in Giacomo Puccini’s very popular opera La Bohème in October 2006. The success of her performances in Philadelphia led to performances in London, England at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden and


the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. At both theaters she was asked to sing the very role that attracted her to opera so many years ago, Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata. She returned to Philadelphia in February 2009 to sing the role of the slave girl Liù in Puccini’s Chinese fairy tale opera, Turandot. Again in these performances she stole the show with her gorgeous singing and bold acting. In Madama Butterfly Ermonela fulfills another dream by singing the heartrending role of Cio-Cio San. It’s one of the most difficult roles in opera, too. You need a powerful voice to sing over the large orchestra during a long evening. The role tests the singer’s stamina as Butterfly is onstage for almost three quarters of the opera. She’ll also have to control her emotions during this very emotional opera. Have you ever tried to talk when you’re crying? It’s almost impossible. Imagine how hard it is to sing if you’re crying! When not singing in opera houses all over the world, Ermonela likes to study foreign languages, philosophy, and read material about future projects trying to analyze the roles historically and philologically. “I am very lucky in this direction because my husband shares the same passion when it comes to music. He has an interesting way of explaining the most abstract things in very concrete terms,” she said. Ermonela says that she has been very lucky to make a career in opera. But it could not have been possible without great mentors in her life like her big brother, her teachers, and her husband – who supports her all the time. To learn more about Ermonela, visit her website at Don’t forget to shout “Brava!” at the end of the opera during the curtain call, too!

Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho in performance as Mimì in La Bohème during her OCP debut in 2006. Photo: Kelly & Massa Photography

Madama Butterfly Discussion Questions


Madama Butterfly is a thought provoking opera. While we sympathize with the naive young girl who falls in love with a naval officer, her actions seem drastic if remarkable today. Review the questions below in class with your classmates and compare your thoughts on the opera.


What does it mean to be an American? What “American” qualities do Pinkerton and Sharpless display during the opera?


What does America mean to Butterfly?


In the Act I, Butterfly tells us that she has converted to Christianity. In the Act 2 she wears Amercian style clothing and welcomes Shaprless into an “American” home. Yet, in the final scene she returns to traditional Japanese dress and wears a kimono. Why? Why does Butterfly convert to Christianity?


Why do you think Butterfly falls in love with Pinkerton so quickly and trusts him so much?


Was Butterfly right to fall in love with Pinkerton? Why does she reject Prince Yamadori?


Throughout the love duet that ends Act I Butterfly repeats that she is “renounced and happy.” Several people throughout the opera renounce Butterfly. Who are they and why do they renounce her? Does Pinkerton renounce her?


Butterfly’s father committed hari-kari in order to preserve his honor. How does his decision influence Butterfly’s actions throughout the opera? How does honor affect Butterfly’s decisions?


Does the Japanese reverence of “honor” affect Pinkerton, Sharpless, Suzuki, or Goro?


Should Sharpless have warned Butterfly of Pinkerton’s intentions? Why didn’t he?


How does Pinkerton’s character change throughout the opera?


Most women complete geisha training at the age of 20. If Butterfly is only 15, what does it say about her skills as a geisha?


Geisha were trained in the arts of conversation, calligraphy, dance, music, flower arranging and more. In which of these arts do you think Butterfly was the most talented?


Imagine that you are 15 years old and you enter into an arranged marriage with someone you have never met. How would you react to the marriage?


Imagine yourself in Butterfly’s position. You are 18 years old. You married a stranger, fell in love with him, gave birth to his son, and he has left you but promises to return. Your father died several years ago. Your entire family has rejected you. You have only a few dollars left. When your husband finally returns you are filled with joy and are anxious to see him. Your dream of reuniting your family is about to come true. When he arrives at your home you find out he has come to bring your son to live with him and his new wife in another country. You will never see your son again. What do you do? How do you preserve your honor and your name? Aside from suicide and marrying Prince Yamadori, what are Butterfly’s options?


What do you think happens to Suzuki? Butterfly’s child? Kate and Pinkerton?

Glossary Underlined words are used in the libretto and are underlined in the libretto as well. act (akt) n. one of the main divisions of a play or opera. allegro (uh-leg-roh) adv. musical term for fast and lively. alto (al-toh) n. the range of the female voice between mezzo-soprano and contralto. andante (ahn-dahn-tey) adv. a musical term meaning in moderately slow time. antagonist (an-tag-o-nist) n. an adversary or opponent of the main character or protagonist in an opera, play, or other drama. aria (ahr-ee-uh) n. an operatic song for one voice. aromatic (ar-uh-mat-ik) adj. having an aroma; fragrant or sweet-scented. bar (bahr) n. a division of music containing a set number of beats. baritone (bar-i-tohn) n. the range of the male voice between tenor and bass. bass (beys) n. the lowest male singing voice. beat (beet) n. the basic pulse of a piece of music. capacious (kuh-pey-shuhs) adj. capable of holding much; spacious or roomy. chord (kord) n. a group of notes played at the same time in harmony. chorus (kawr-uhs) n. 1. a group of singers. 2. a piece of music for these. chronological (kron-l-oj-i-kuhl) adj. a method of arrangement that puts events in order of occurrence. concertina (kon-ser-tee-nuh) adj. pertaining to or resembling a concertina instrument that folds and collapses. confound (kon-found) v. to perplex or amaze, esp. by a sudden disturbance or surprise; bewilder; confuse consul (kon-suhl) n. an official appointed by the government of one country to look after its commercial interests and the welfare of its citizens in another country. contemporary (kuhn-tem-puh-rer-ee) n. a person belonging to the same time or period with another or others. contralto (cuhn-tral-toh) n. the lowest female singing voice. creed (kreed) n. any system, doctrine, or formula of religious belief, as of a denomination. desertion (di-zur-shuhn) n. willful abandonment, esp. of one's wife or husband without consent, in violation of legal or moral obligations. disillusion (dis-i-loo-zhuhn) v. to free from or deprive of illusion, belief, idealism, etc.; disenchant. extravagant (ik-strav-uh-guhnt) adj. exceeding the bounds of reason, as actions, demands, opinions, or passions. flat (b) (flat) adj. a half-step lower than the corresponding note or key of natural pitch. forte (f) (for-tay) adv. loudly. fortify (fawr-tuh-fahy) v. to strengthen mentally or morally. fortissimo (ff) (for-tee-see-moh) adv. a musical term for very loud. geisha (gey-shuh) n. a Japanese woman trained as a professional singer, dancer, and companion for men. hara-kiri (hahr-uh-keer-ee) n. ceremonial suicide by ripping open the abdomen with a dagger or knife: formerly practiced in Japan by members of the warrior class when disgraced or sentenced to death. hawsers (haw-zer) n. a heavy rope for mooring or towing. herein (heer-in) adv. in or into this place. infatuation (in-fach-oo-ey-shuhn) n. foolish or all-absorbing passion or an instance of this. Kami (kä'mĭ) n. Any of the sacred beings worshiped in Shintoism, conceived as spirits abiding in natural phenomena and sometimes in people with extraordinary qualities. key (kee) n. the basic note of the main scale used in a piece of music. In the key of G, for example, G is the fundamental note; the music often returns to it and comes to rest on it. lacquer (lak-er) n. a protective coating consisting of a resin, cellulose ester, or both, dissolved in a volatile solvent, sometimes with pigment added. languish (lang-gwish) v. to pine with desire or longing. largo (lahr-goh) adv. a musical term meaning in slow time and dignified style. leitmotiv (lahyt-mo-teev) n. a melodic passage or phrase associated with a specific character, situation, or element.



libretto (li-bret-oh) n. the words of an opera or other long musical. magistrate (maj-uh-streyt) n. a civil officer charged with the administration of the law. major (mahy-zer) adj. music in a major key uses a major scale, in which the first three notes are the key note followed by intervals of a tone and then another tone (for example, C, D, E). It often has a cheerful, strong sound. maneuver (muh-noo-ver) v. to steer in various directions as required. minor (my-ner) adj. music in a minor key uses a minor scale, in which the first three notes are the key note followed by intervals of a tone and then a semitone ( for example A, B, C). It often has a sad, melancholic sound. natural (nach-er-uhl) adj. a note that is neither flattened nor sharpened. nuptial (nuhp-shuhl) adj. of or pertaining to marriage or the marriage ceremony. maneuver (muh-noo-ver) v. to steer in various directions as required. obi (oh-bee) n. a long, broad sash tied about the waist over a Japanese kimono. obstinate (ob-stuh-nit) adj. firmly or stubbornly adhering to one's purpose, opinion, etc.; not yielding to argument, persuasion, or entreaty. octave (ok-tiv) n. a note that sounds twice as high in pitch as another, is an octave above the other note, and has the same letter naming it. opera (op-er-uh) n. a play in which the words are sung to musical accompaniment. orchestra (awr-keh-struh) n. a large body of people playing various musical instruments, including stringed and wind instruments. overture (oh-ver-cher) n. an orchestral composition forming a prelude to an opera or ballet. ornithology (awr-nuh-thol-uh-jee) n. the branch of zoology that deals with birds palanquin (pal-uhn-keen) n. A covered litter carried on poles on the shoulders of four or more bearers, fo merly used in eastern Asia. parasol (par-uh-sawl) n. a lightweight umbrella used, esp. by women, as a sunshade. pessimistic (pes-uh-mis-tik) adj. gloomy, despairing, hopeless pianissimo (pp) (pee-ah-nees-ee-moh) adv. a musical term meaning very softly. piano (p) (pi-an-oh) 1. adv. a musical term meaning softly. 2. n. keyed percussion instrument first named pianoforte because it could play both softly and loudly. plight (plahyt) v. to bind (someone) by a pledge, esp. of marriage. presto (pres-toh) adv. a musical term meaning very fast. prophetic (pruh-fet-ik) adj. predictive; presageful or portentous; ominous. registrar (rej-uh-strahr) n. a person who keeps a record; an official recorder. remorse (ri-mawrs) n. deep and painful regret for wrongdoing. renounce (ri-nouns) v. to repudiate; disown. respite (res-pit) n. a delay or cessation for a time, esp. of anything distressing or trying; an interval of relief. roving (roh-ving) adj. roaming or wandering. scale (skayl) n. a series of notes arranged in descending or ascending order of pitch. semitone (sem-i-tohn) n. a half step or half tone, an interval midway between two whole tones. sharp (#) (shahrp) n. any note a semitone higher than another note. Also, slightly too high in pitch. soprano (so-prah-noh) n. the highest female or boy's singing voice. stage (stayj) n. a platform on which a public performance is given before an audience. staging (stay-jing) n. the presentation or production on the stage. symphony (sim-foh-nee) n. a long musical composition (usually in several parts) for a full orchestra. synopsis (si-nop-sis) n. a summary, a brief general survey. taper (tey-per) n. a candle, esp. a very slender one. tone (tohn) n. 1. an interval equal to two semitones. 2. the sound quality of an instrument or voice. troth (trawth) n. faithfulness, fidelity, or loyalty. verbena (ver-bee-nuh) n. any of various plants of the genus Verbena, esp. any of several hybrid species cultivated for their showy flower clusters. verismo (vuh-riz-moh ) n. realism in opera. vindicate (vin-di-keyt) v. to uphold or justify by argument or evidence From Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Š Random House, Inc. 2009.

The School District of Philadelphia School Reform Commission Sandra Dungee Glenn, Chairwoman

Sounds of Learning™ was established by a generous grant from The Annenberg Foundation.

Martin G. Bednarek, member James P. Gallagher, Ph.D, member Denise McGregor Armbrister, member Heidi A. Ramirez, Ph.D, member Dr. Arlene C. Akerman

Superintendent of Schools and Interim Chief Academic Officer

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Dedicated funding for the Sounds of Learning™ program has been provided by: $20,000 to $49,999 Glenmede Hamilton Family Foundation Lincoln Financial Group Foundation Presser Foundation Universal Health Services

Written and produced by: Opera Company of Philadelphia Community Programs Department ©2009 1420 Locust Street, Suite 210 Philadelphia, PA, U.S.A. 19102 Tel: (215) 893-3600, ext. 246 Fax: (215) 893-7801 Michael Bolton

Director of Community Programs Special thanks to:

Opera Company of Philadelphia Robert B. Driver

Artistic Director

Corrado Rovaris Music Director

David B. Devan

Executive Director

Michael Bolton

Director of Community Programs

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The Opera Company of Philadelphia is supported by major grants from The William Penn Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trusts, and The Lenfest Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Independence Foundation and the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation. The Opera Company of Philadelphia receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

$10,000 to $19,999 The ARAMARK Charitable Fund at the Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program Citizens Bank Foundation Ellis A. Gimbel Charitable Trust Ethel Sergeant Clark Smith Memorial Fund Eugene Garfield Foundation GlaxoSmithKline Foundation Hirsig Family Fund Morgan Stanley Foundation The Patricia Kind Family Foundation PNC Bank Foundation Samuel S. Fels Fund

Robert B. Driver Dr. Dennis W. Creedon

Creator, Sounds of Learning™ Curriculum Consultant

Laura Jacoby Tullo Migliorini EMI Records Maureen Lynch

Operations Manager Academy of Music

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Design Concept

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2009 2010

Opera Company of Philadelphia

1420 Locust Street, Suite 210, Philadelphia, PA 19102 T (215) 893-3600 F (215) 893-7801

OPERA at the Academy Madama Butterfly

Tea: A Mirror of Soul

La Traviata

October 9, 11m, 14, 16, 18m

February 19, 21m, 24, 26, 28m

May 7, 9m, 12, 14, 16m




OPERA @ the Perelman Antony & Cleopatra *

Orphée & Euridice

March 17, 19, 21m

June 19m, 23, 25



* The Kimmel Center Presents Curtis Opera Theatre’s production in association with Opera Company of Philadelphia