Madama Butterfly

I’m currently working on the score for the chorus of Madama Butterfly for a one night only production at the end of the month.  I have been asked to play the character La Zia and understudy for the role of Kate by my first classical singing Teacher, Jayne Wilson.



I last performed with Jayne back in November 2013 when I was asked to take part in a fund raiser for the Bowdon Youth festival hosted by Edwina Currie, who commented in the Messenger newspaper :

There were also two stunning solos by soprano Charlotte Hoather and a duet with Jayne Wilson, artistic director of Bowdon Festival.

Jayne previously taught Charlotte. Edwina Currie said: “It was a pleasure for all of us – and especially to hear Jayne Wilson’s magnificent duet with Charlotte, after all the praises we’ve heard sung about her. That can’t be a one-off, we have to hear that again”.

Jayne is to play the role of Madama Butterfly in the opera which is to be performed at St Mary’s Church in Bowdon on the 27th June at 7:30 pm.

St Mary’s Church, Bowdon © Copyright David Dixon

This beautiful opera by Giacomo Puccini ( 1858 – 1924 ) is based on a short novel John Luther Long.  The story takes us to Japan at the turn of the last century.


Act 1

As the opera opens we finds ourselves in Nagasaki, Japan.  The year is 1904 and an American naval officer Benjamin Pinkerton seeks the help of a local marriage broker named Goro to locate a house to lease, a lease he was told would come with a pretty young Japanese wife.  Goro assured Pinkerton not to worry as both the lease on the house and the arranged marriage could be ended with just a month’s notice.

This suited the Naval officer as he could not wait to return home to America to marry a proper American wife. However the young Japanese girl had other ideas, seeing the arrangement as far more than a passing fancy.  In her excitement to be the best possible wife she converted to Christianity in a bid to please her new American husband to be.

Her name was CioCio-San which is the Japanese word for “Butterfly” and she was only 15 years of age. She was so happy as the date of the marriage ceremony approached, which was to take place in the house that Goro had found for them both to live in.  However her happiness is short lived as her Uncle, the Bonze, arrives at the house to condemn her religious conversion.  Her family turn their backs on her leaving the poor young girl devastated and ostracised. Her despair is broken as she sings a love duet with her new Husband in the home they are to live in.


Act 2

Three years have past and we find Butterfly in the house waiting for Pinkerton’s return.  He had left her shortly after their marriage returning to America. Though Butterfly’s maid Suzuki tries to convince her that her husband will not be returning the advice falls on deaf ears.  Since Pinkerton’s departure Goro has tried unsuccessfully to persuade Butterfly to take a new husband. Butterfly is utterly convinced that one day her husband, Pinkerton will return and along with their child they will all be a family again.

The American Consul, Sharpless arrives at the house with a letter from Pinkerton along with the news that he is to return to Japan. But seeing her and knowing the letter’s contents he cannot bring himself to read it to her.  He beseeches her to marry one of her suitors, Prince Yamadori but Butterfly will not consider it at all.  She instead reveals to Sharpless that before Pinkerton left she had become pregnant and proudly shows her son to him.  She explains that she called her son “Trouble” who upon Pinkerton’s return she will rename “Joy”.  She pleads with Sharpless to tell Pinkerton of their beautiful son and he promises to tell him about the child.

As Pinkerton’s ship docks in the harbour Butterfly decorates the house displaying her overwhelming joy at the return of her husband.  Through the night she waits for Pinkerton to return to her and their son.


Act 3

The morning arrives and Suzuki wakes as we see Butterfly finally succumbs to her exhaustion and falls asleep.  Sharpless, Pinkerton and his new American wife Kate arrive at the house.  Pinkerton has persuaded Kate to take in the child and raise it as their own but as they approach the house he sees the decorations and cannot face meeting Butterfly, he acknowledges his cowardice and leaves everyone to sort out the mess that he had created.  Butterfly finally sees the helplessness of her situation and reluctantly agrees to give up her child, but only if Pinkerton comes to collect their son himself.  The final scene is set Pinkerton is contacted and agrees to return to meet with Butterfly.  Butterfly in turn prepares her son to meet his father for the first time and readies him to leave to live with him. The tension builds as we see everything unfold before our eyes………


But if you want to know how it ends you will have to go and watch it 🙂




49 thoughts on “Madama Butterfly

  1. Oh how exciting! Puccini for you and I know that you will be the light which makes this production SHINE! Brava!

  2. I’m sure most opera lovers know how it ends – in tears. One just can’t help being carried away by the tragedy of joy turned to hopelessness.
    Though I would wish no ill to the other lady, it would be great if you got a bash at Kate!

  3. i saw a wonderful production of Butterfly years ago with Joan Carden in the lead. Absolutely heartbreaking scene at the end in which the little boy, blindfolded, turns and turns around the stage with his arms outstretched.

  4. This is a beautiful opera, so emotional! After reading your post I wish I could be there to see you perform. How wonderful to be in such a lovely production! All the best for a successful show! Xo

  5. How wonderful for you Charlotte. And when you first read that review your heart must have sung also! Some years ago I stumbled across a real-life version of Madame Butterfly which also begins on 1904. Worth a look: Sword and Blossom: A British Officer’s Enduring Love for a Japanese Woman, by Peter Pagnamento and Momoko Williams. The title might say “enduring”, but the “Pinkerton” in this story left the woman and child in a similar situation to our desperate CioCio-San . . .

    1. Thanks Andrew it was the first time I’d sung with a full brass band, we only had time for one run through Milnrow Brass Band were fabulous a great experience.

      Best wishes

  6. This sounds like a fabulous opera, loved reading about it. I know you will have a great time performing it see you soon xxx

  7. Good luck, Charlotte! Butterfly is an amazingly poignant tragedy, and that love duet is simply one of the best–it always sends chills up my spine when I listen to it! And it must be delightful to be performing alongside your first teacher; you must both be very proud!

    All the very best wishes,


  8. Yes, it must be wonderful to be in this Puccinni’s opera, Madama Butterfly. And to sing a duet with your music teacher in this opera, how lovely for you Charlotte 🙂 All the best and enjoy this special performance!

    1. It will be wonderful to meet up with Jayne and the rest of the cast when I travel home next week. It promises to be a fabulous experience 🙂

      Best wishes

  9. A guaranteed weepie, with some lovely music. I saw a production at Holland Park a couple of years ago and Cio-Cio San was played a quiet, but very strong, character making her own decision at all stages. Enjoy!

  10. I can’t take this anymore. He marries her, leaves within a month, has a child he doesn’t take care of. I mean..if he knew he wasn’t gonna stay with her, why get her pregnant? Honestly. Then, he wants to take the child away to be raised by another lady?! Wait until I find him…he ain’t gonna be safe nowhere.

  11. Dear Charlotte,

    I had always been curious about this opera, and it was such a joy to find your explanation of it here. Thank you for that.

    You and your cast will be in my prayers. I know that you will do another superb job.

    May God bless you!


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