Opera Novellini: Madame Butterfly
Opera Novellini: Madame Butterfly
Utah Opera 2014-15 Season
A compressed and stylized version of the Madame Butterfly libretto written by L. Illica and G. Giacosa, based on the book by John L. Long and the drama by David Belasco, translated to English by John Gutman.
Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton, a lieutenant in the United States Navy, took in the smell of the falling petals that were caught in the wind from the blossoming trees and sighed with a smile. He followed Goro, his marriage broker who lead him from room to room bowing at every small detail of Pinkerton’s new house. Goro had just introduced his housemaid, cook, and house boy, and Pinkerton took a moment to think about how his life was about to change. With a joyful exuberance, he smiled to himself.
The new housemaid, Suzuki, had already impressed upon him her penchant for chatter. Women are the same everywhere, they babble like parrots, he thought. The boy and the cook seemed all too nervous, but he paid little mind. After all, it wasn’t about them; it was about her, Cio-Cio-San. He would have her all to himself.
“Is everything ready, Goro?”
“Yes,” Goro replied. “Every detail is in place. First, you will see the Registrar, her family and friends, your Consul General, and then your promised.”
“You are the perfect broker!” Pinkerton exclaimed. Then he bit his lip at the next thought. “Are there many relatives?”
“Her grandmother, Uncle Bonzo—although he will not be attending—the cousins, a couple dozen. But in regards to descendants,” he continued with an eager smile, “they will be taken care of by you and the lovely butterfly.”
“I’m not a mountaineer!” Sharpless, the United States Consul at Nagasaki, shouted between panting breaths as he appeared at the top of the hill.
Pinkerton greeted him with a hearty laugh and guided him to the terrace. “I’m happy to see you!” Turning toward the house, he shouted, “Goro, bring some refreshments quickly.”
“This is too high,” Sharpless said as he tried to catch his breath.
“But pretty,” Pinkerton countered.
Sharpless looked over the terrace at the rolling sea and sprawling city below. “This is your house?”
Goro and the two servants quickly emerged with glasses and bottle. The two servants retreated to the house while Goro stayed on the terrace and prepared the drinks.
“I’ve purchased it for nine hundred and ninety-nine long years, but I can cancel the contract any month. It’s fantastic! It appears in this country both houses and agreements are elastic,” Pinkerton said as he reached for the drinks Goro had prepared.
“And if you’re smart you take advantage,” Sharpless murmured.
As if reciting a poem, Pinkerton said, “Wherever ships sail, you’ll find a Yankee roaming; cheerful and unafraid, he courts adventure. He throws his anchor out just when and where he chooses, until one day a storm destroys his ship and yet he never loses.” He took a sip of whiskey and looked out at the ocean. “To make his life worth living, he must pluck flowers of each region … and have a girl in every port”
Sharpless tried to interject. “To have your cake and eat it is an easy credo. Your pleasures would be enviable, but pitiable for the sadness in your heart.”
Indifferent, Pinkerton continued, “Always undaunted, his luck will not desert him. As long as pleasures last, what is there to hurt him? And now, according to local custom, I shall be married for nine hundred and ninety-nine years. But it is agreed that I may cancel!”
“Is the bride beautiful?”
Goro, who had overheard everything, chimed in, “She is like a garland of virgin flowers, a star with rays that are golden. However, she is inexpensive, only one hundred yen.” With a sly glance in the consul’s direction, he asked, “Could you be tempted? I have a nice collection.”
The consul laughed, thanked him, and stood up and looked Pinkerton in the eye. “I can that you don’t want to wait. Don’t tell me you really love her?”
“Who knows? Who knows? It depends on what you mean by loving. It may be love, it may be fancy, but for the moment, I am enthralled by that innocent charmer. She is light, like a glass-figure spun by a master. And in her gestures, gracious and tender, she’s like the maiden seen on a silk screen. But, she won’t stain the screen-maker’s power, and taking wing, she alights on a flower: a butterfly, she escapes me and taunts me, in all my dreams so enchants me and haunts me that I must give her chase. I must possess her even though her lovely wings be broken.”
“She came to my office not too long ago. I didn’t see her, but I heard her speak. Her voice impressed me; I don’t know why. Surely only a love that is true has such a voice. I think it would be too bad to break those tender young wings and to play games with a girl’s trusting heart.”
“Consul, you are a kind man, don’t get upset! I know men of your age have a sentimental heart. There’ll be no harm done, if I have my way and teach those tender wings the flights of love.”
Sharpless sighed and looked down at his glass. “I hope you’ll think it over. Voices like her voice should sing a love-song and never speak of unhappiness in love.”
Pinkerton refilled Sharpless’ glass and offered it to him. “A toast to your folks back in Kansas. And also to the happy day when I shall marry one of the pretty girls of the good old U.S.A.”
Running breathlessly from the foot of the hill, Goro called out, “They’re coming! They’re coming up the hill. Do you see them?”
Pinkerton could see a line of girls cheerfully chattering over one another. “All this heaven! All this sea! All this light!” they sang.
“Remember why I came here,” whispered Butterfly, turning toward the girls. “It was love that had called, and love is here to greet me.”
Butterfly recognized Pinkerton immediately and pointed him out. The girls bowed as they approached the three men and said, “We are honored.”
Pinkerton, smiling at Butterfly, asked, “Did you find the climb trying?”
“For a girl who meets her husband, the waiting is much more trying.”
Tugging on the bottom hem of his uniform jacket and pulling back his shoulders, Pinkerton derisively replied, “That’s a compliment I treasure.”
He drew closer to her, ignoring the other girls. “Miss Butterfly. A sweet name, and also fitting. Are you from Nagasaki?”
“Yes, I am. And my family was rather wealthy.” She looked over her shoulder toward her friends. “Is it true?”
“Oh, yes,” they all twittered back. “That is true.”
Butterfly continued, “Even a humble vagabond would say he was born of noble forebears. The fact remains that we were wealthy once.” She paused and looked down. “But when storms begin to rage, even strongest oaks will tumble. We had to work as geishas to keep the wolf away.” She noticed that Pinkerton was laughing at her. “Why are you laughing? That’s the way of the world.”
Pinkerton looked over at Sharpless. “When she talks like a grown-up child, I can’t help but adore her.”
Sharpless enjoyed listening to the girl speak and asked, “ Do you have any sisters?”
“No,” she replied.
“And where’s your father?”
Taken by surprise, Butterfly swallowed. “Dead.”
“And how old are you?”
“Why don’t you guess it?”
“Too much! I’m exactly fifteen. Quite old, I’m afraid.”
“That’s a nice age,” Pinkerton exclaimed.
“For playing.” responded Sharpless, dismayed at the situation.
Goro noticed other people arriving from the base of the hill and began to announce them importantly. “The Imperial Official, the Registrar on duty, and the kinsfolk.”
Pinkerton laughed and turned toward Sharpless. “Very funny! All these in-laws are a recent acquisition, hired on a monthly basis!”
Butterfly’s relatives approached her and asked her to point out her promised.
“He is not handsome,” one cousin concluded.
Offended, Butterfly responded that he is a prince, rare even in dreams.
One cousin pointed out that Goro had first offered her to him.
“You are not as pretty as you once were,” another said. “You think you can turn up your nose because Pinkerton chose her above the others? You will be be divorced.”
The others murmured their agreement. Butterfly’s disdain for her cousins grew.
Her mother, behind a purple fan, said, “He is a great man.”
“Yes,” her uncle commented. “He is tall and handsome.”
“For heaven’s sake!” Goro shouted above the chatter. “Can’t you be still!” He began shushing them.
“You are a lucky devil!” Sharpless exclaimed. “I’ll call you ‘Lucky Pinkerton!’ What else but luck has sent you that pure and fragrant flower! I must say I’ve not yet seen a girl as lovely as your pretty Butterfly. Though you waste no emotion on this marriage, but of her devotion, I warn you, she is in earnest!”
“It’s true, she is a flower! So strange, so strongly scented that my head whirls with her fragrance. A flower so pure and tender; to own her will be delightful!”
Butterfly ordered her family to bow, and they did. Then she approached Pinkerton. He asked her if she would like to see her new house. Without answering, she asked him to see the things she owned. He acquiesced, and she reached in her flowing sleeves and removed silk kerchiefs, a belt, a buckle, a mirror a pipe and other various objects and she handed them to Suzuki. Then she withdrew a long narrow box. Pinkerton questioned what it was and she told him it was something sacred. There were too many people there to show him, so she brought it in the house.
While she was away, Goro explained that the box was a gift from the Mikado to her father with an order, then he made a gesture indicating hara-kiri. An order which her father followed. Goro then entered the house and left Pinkerton on the terrace.
Butterfly returned and sat next to Pinkerton. She pulled small statues from her sleeves. “The Ottoke.”
“What are they, puppets?”
“They are the spirits of my ancestors.”
“I pay them homage.”
“No one knows it, but I have been on a visit to the Mission. Starting out in a new life, I feel I should adopt a new religion. Uncle Bonzo doesn’t know, and my folks don’t know it. But I must heed the call of Fate. In all humility. I’ll bow to Mister Pinkerton’s Almighty. Fate bids me do it. In the church where you worship I shall fall on my knees, and your Lord shall then be my Lord. And to show how I love you, I would even abandon my own people.” Throwing herself into Pinkerton’s arms, she whispered, “That’s how I love you!”
Goro opened the shoshi to the room that was prepared for the wedding and ushered everyone inside. The commissary recited a short passage of rites uniting Pinkerton, of his own free will, to Butterfly, by consent of her kinsmen. Goro guided Pinkerton to where he must sign on the contract scroll, and then he directed Butterfly to sign and all was settled.
“Dear Madame Butterfly!” exclaimed the girls.
“No, Madame B. F. Pinkerton,” Butterfly corrected.
Butterfly’s cousins received her with praise and kisses while Pinkerton began guiding the Consul, the Imperial Commissary, and the Registrar down the path to the city.
“Remember!” Sharpless said before he was out of sight.
Pinkerton returned a reassuring gesture and waved.
Surrounded by my family, let’s not be too discourteous, and yet: good riddance! Hip! Hip! Pinkerton thought to himself as he re-approached the family.
The family began toasting to the new couple. “O Kami! O Kami!” they cheered. Then from the hill, desperate shouting interrupted the joyful celebration.
“Cio-Cio-San!” shouted Uncle Bonzo. “Cio-Cio-San!”
A sudden silence came across the crowd. The relatives and friends turned pale and gathered together. Frightened, Butterfly retreated to a corner by herself.
“What abomination!” Uncle Bonzo pushed his way through the others and menacingly reached his hands toward Butterfly. “What did you do at the Mission?”
Butterfly’s aunts gasped and held their breath. One of them spoke out, “Answer now, Cio Cio San!”
Pinkerton, in shock, questioned why Uncle Bonzo was yelling, but he was ignored by all.
Her cousins and friends began shouting at her. They spat that she had betrayed her people. They questioned why she wasn’t crying and why she would treat them that way.
“She has betrayed, let me tell you, the old religion. Kami Surandasico!” Uncle Bonzo shouted in her face. “A soul as base and rotten, she will be lost and forgotten.”
Butterfly hid her face behind her hands. Her mother tried to reach out and defend her, but Uncle Bonzo pushed her away.
Pinkerton, having taken count of the turn of events and come to his senses, pushed his way between Uncle Bonzo and Butterfly and told him that was enough and that he needed to leave. Hearing Pinkerton’s voice startled Uncle Bonzo, and he quickly resolved to tell the family it was time to go. Bonzo turned toward Butterfly in disgust and told her she had disowned her people. Her family, in turn, exclaimed that they had disowned her.
“Go away! Go away this moment!” Pinkerton commanded. “This house is mine, and I’ll have no yelling and no one’s Bonzo here!”
Butterfly’s mother tried once more to go to Butterfly’s side, but she was pushed away by the others. Butterfly burst out in tears and fell to her knees. Hearing her sobs, Pinkerton lifted her up and tenderly removed her hands from her tear stained face. “Darling, you must not cry, my love! No matter how they are croaking. All of your folks, all the Bonzos of Japan, are not worth a single tear from eyes as dear as your eyes.”
Pinkerton clapped his hands and ordered that the servants move the soshi and help Butterfly out of her wedding robe and into another. They dismissed the servants and Pinkerton stood up, drawing Butterfly closer to him. “Give me your hands so that I may kiss them.” He sighed tenderly. “My Butterfly, how well your name was chosen. Butterfly, my darling.”
Butterfly withdrew her hands. “Beyond the ocean they chase her with a net, and when they catch her, they put a pin through her body, lock her up in a glass case …”
“That tale is not a lie.” He took her hands and smiled half-way. “But let me tell you why … so she can’t get away! I have caught you now.” He pulled her into his embrace. “You tremble as I hold you. You love me!”
“Yes, and forever.”
“Come, be mine now!” Butterfly shrank back as if ashamed.
Pinkerton reached back to her and told her that her doubts and anguish are gone. There was no need for fearful hesitation, and the night smiled on lovers and all the world was silent.
In the dimly lit room, Suzuki huddled in front of an image of Buddha, murmuring prayers. She occasionally rang the prayer bell in hopes that she would be heard and her Butterfly would need not cry anymore.
Butterfly, near her on the floor, supported her head in the palms of her hands, lost in thought. Here in Japan our gods are so lazy! God must be faster at answering humble prayers in my new country. I wonder if He knows that we live here. “Suzuki, how long before we are starving?”
Suzuki rose and opened a cabinet on the rear wall. She lifted the lid on the box that held all of their money and showed Butterfly what they had left. Suzuki sighed and told Butterfly that unless her husband comes back soon, there’ll be nothing but trouble. Butterfly insisted that he would come back, after all, why else would he have the Consul keep paying their rent? She pointed out that he had all the locks on the house doubled and questioned why he would do that if he didn’t intend to come back. Becoming irritated with Suzuki’s doubts, Butterfly walked up to her and said, “I’ll tell you why. He did it to keep away my folks, mosquitoes, grief and sorrow. To keep his beloved inside, safe and jealously guarded. His beloved. His beloved wife, his sweetheart, Butterfly.”
“But have you ever known an American husband who did return to the nest?” Suzuki implored.
“Don’t say that! I’ll kill you!” Butterfly said. “That morning when he left me: ‘will I see you again?’ that’s what I asked. He, though his heart was heavy, did not want me to know it, so he smiled as he answered: ‘Sweet Butterfly, my little wife, my darling, I’ll return with the roses, in that enchanted season when the red-breasted robin starts building nests again.” She took a breath and steadied herself. “He’ll come back.”
“Let’s hope so.”
“Say it with me,” Butterfly insisted. “He’ll be back.”
“He’ll be back!” repeated Suzuiki, bursting into tears.
“Why are you crying? Don’t you have any faith? I do. Soon we’ll see at daybreak a tiny thread of smoke rise where the sky borders on the ocean. And then a ship in motion. Gleaming white, it draws near, steaming into the harbor, all the guns saluting. He’s come! Just as I told you! But I won’t go to meet him. Not yet! I will wander to the rim of the hilltop. Who on earth can it be? And when at last he gets here, what on earth will he say? He will call: ‘Butterfly.’ I hear him faintly. But I don’t think I’ll answer. I’ll stay a while in hiding at first to tease him, but then for fear to die in his embraces! Then worried by my silence he will call: ‘My little wife, my darling, my fragrant sweet verbena,’ all the names he used to give me when first I met him.” She sighed and looked at the tears drying on Suzuki’s cheeks. “That’s the way it will be, you may believe me. You have no right to doubt it while I with faith unshaken await him!” She dismissed Suzuki and stayed in place, gazing off toward the doorway.
Meanwhile, Goro and Sharpless made their way through the garden toward Butterfly’s house. Sharpless tapped lightly at the door. Butterfly heard them coming and moved from her place on the floor.
“Beg your pardon,” Sharpless began. “Is Madame Butterfly…”
“No, Madame Pinkerton, please,” Butterfly interrupted without turning around.
She paused, then turned around, and immediately recognizing the Consul, she clapped her hands joyously. Sharpless was surprised that she remembered him as she welcomed him in to her American Household, as she called it. She offered him a seat which he awkwardly accepted. She hid her grin behind her fan and asked how his family was. After he said all was well, she instructed Suzuki to prepare a pipe for him.
The letter he came to talk to her about seemed to burn in his pocket the longer he had to wait to get the words out. He tried to interrupt, but she didn’t notice and instead she spoke of her delight in seeing him.
Suzuki offered him the pipe. He politely refused and set it on the table. He once again tried to bring up the reason for his visit, but Butterfly, instead, asked him if he would like an American cigarette. He accepted and thanked her and tried again to continue his tale. Butterfly then asked him if he would like a light. He lit the cigarette and put it down, and then he pulled out the letter and showed it to her.
“I’ve heard from Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton,” he started.
“A letter! And how is he?”
“In all Japan there’s no happier girl than I am.” Butterfly rejoiced and stood up. Her elation wasn’t as easy to hide as she thought it would be. Suzuki began preparing tea, and before Sharpless could continue, Butterfly presented a question of her own. “In your country,” she started and sat down, setting her fan on the table, “when do little robins start to build their new nests?”
Astonished, Sharpless asked, “Beg your pardon?”
“Well, is it later than here?”
Goro, who was walking by the garden, stopped near the terrace to eavesdrop on what Butterfly was saying.
“It’s because my husband promised he would return in that enchanted season when the robin red-breast starts building his new nest. Here they have made their nests several times since, but it could be that in your country they nest less often.”
Goro couldn’t contain himself and began to laugh out loud. Butterfly dismissed Goro and reminded Sharpless that she had asked a question. He told her that he couldn’t answer, that ornithology wasn’t a subject he was familiar with. Butterfly stumbled on the word ornithology, but she knew that he meant he didn’t have an answer. Sharpless confirmed her conclusion and tried to continue on about his reason for visiting.
Once again, Butterfly interrupted him and explained that Goro had been visiting daily with honeyed words and presents from other suitors. Goro entered the room so he could intervene and justify himself and explained that the wealthy Yamadori was the potential suitor. Butterfly was in trouble and alone because all of her relatives despised her.
At that moment, Yamadori arrived in the garden in a sedan chair attended by servants. Butterfly pointed him out to Sharpless, and then retreated to the back wall. Yamadori was welcomed by Goro, and he greeted the Consul and Butterfly before he sitting on the terrace.
Butterfly kneeled and spoke to him. “Yamdori, you still are sighing: you adore me, and how you miss me! Any day they’ll find you dying if I shall not let you kiss me.”
“Nothing keeps me quite so harried as to sigh and woo in vain.”
“After all the wives you’ve married,” Butterfly accused, “why attempt it once again?”
“Every single time I married, I was granted a divorce.”
“I can assure you with you it would be different.”
Sharpless sighed and returned the letter to his pocket. If he carries on much longer, she will never hear the letter, he thought sadly.
Goro pointed out Yamadori’s qualities. “Besides, Butterfly, abandonment, by Japanese law, is divorce.”
Butterfly refused to hear his words. “Japanese law is not the law of my country, the U.S.A.”
Sharpless listened to this exchange, and his heart felt heavy for Butterfly. The poor little woman.
“’Had enough!’ Send her packing, it’s so easy!” Butterfly berated Goro. “That’s what they call divorce here. But in America, things are very different. Right sir?” she asked Sharpless.
“Surely, and yet…” In his embarrassment, Sharpless hesitated with his answer.
Butterfly interrupted him and turned toward Yamadori and Goro. “There they have judges to deal with such scoundrels. One of them asks him: ‘You want to leave your wife? May I ask why?’ ‘Married life bores me, so please divorce me!’ What does the judge say? ‘Ah, that’s what you think! Two years in prison!’” Then she ordered Suzuki to pour the tea to change the subject.
Yamadori whispered to Sharpless, “You heard her?”
“It is saddening to see how blind a girl can be.”
Goro added, “By the way, they tell me Pinkerton’s ship is due.”
With longing in his heart, Yamadori said, “The moment that she sees him…”
Sharpless, whispered to both of them, “He does not want to see her. It was the purpose of my visit to prepare her—” He broke off when he saw Butterfly and Suzuki coming back with the tea. They offered tea to Sharpless.
Yamadori excused himself. “Farewell, then.” Yamadori sighed. “Please keep my heart; though it is broken, I won’t despair.”
With an inkling of hope, Yamadori walked toward Butterfly. “Ah, if you wanted…”
“The trouble is I don’t!”
Yamadori sighed, bid farewell to Sharpless, entered his sedan chair and departed with his servants and Goro following him. Butterfly continued to laugh behind her fan as she watched him disappear down the hill.
Sharpless sat on the stool with a grave expression on his face and called her over to sit with him. He, once again, removed the letter from his pocket and showed it to her. He told her they could read it together and she snatched it from him and kissed and hugged it. “You’re the kindliest man in the whole world!” she exclaimed. “But now let’s read it.”
Sharpless carefully unfolded the letter and began reading it to her. “Dear Sharpless, have a few words with that sweetest of flowers.”
Upon hearing those words, Butterfly sat upright and joyfully asked, “Are those really his words?”
“Yes, those are his words, but if you interrupt me…” Butterfly fell silent and listened.
“Since that happiest of spring times, three years have passed already…”
“He has counted them also!” Butterfly interjected.
“…and maybe Butterfly remembers me no more.”
“Do I remember? Suzuki, do you hear?”
Pinkerton began losing his patience and repeated, “Remembers me no more. If she’s still fond of me, and expects me…”
Butterfly took the letter and kissed it. “Only he knows such sweet words! My darling, bless you.”
Sharpless took the letter back and continued to read it, this time with a tremble of emotion as he thought of the next words. “I trust you will oblige me, and when you see her, have a little talk with her and try to—”
“He’s coming!” she burst out.
“Tell me! Quickly! Tell me!”
That does it! Pinkerton thought, I must tell her the truth now. The devil take that Pinkerton! He looked at Butterfly’s eyes and she could sense the serious nature of what he was trying to say. “I ask you what you would do, Madame Butterfly, if you should find that he will not return?”
Butterfly stood motionless. The thought that he wouldn’t return cut through her. She softly stammered, “Two things I could do: I could … I could go back and sing and dance again … or else … better … I’d die.”
Her words touched Sharpless and withdrew from him a paternal tenderness. He paced back and forth, returned to her, held her hands and said, “How I hate to be so cruel to destroy a fond illusion, but I think you ought to listen to that wealthy Yamadori.”
Butterfly withdrew her hands. “You, you, a friend, you dare to say this? You?” She clapped her hands and told Suzuki to help see Sharpless out.
Sharpless, embarrassed, asked if Butterfly meant to dismiss him.
She stopped for a moment and held her breath. Repentantly, she ran to him and sobbed. He expressed his regret, and as she listened to his words, she placed her hand on her heart. It was as if she could feel the weight of the air around her crushing it. She was sure she would die if this outcome came to be. But, the moment of hearing the news has passed and she was still alive. She stood straight and whispered to herself that he had forgotten her. She walked out of the room and returned carrying her child on her left shoulder.
She looked at Sharpless and showed him the child’s blue eyes and blond curly hair. “If Pinkerton could forget me, would he forget his son too?”
Sharpless was stunned. “Does Pinkerton know of the child?”
“My husband was already far away when the child came. Write to him. He will not be able to resist his own child. He will fly over mountains and oceans to be with him.” She broke down and fell to her knees, holding her son closely as she caressed his hair. She thought of what she would tell him as he got older. That his father had asked him to beg for bread and his mother to dance as a Geisha. She thought of her own condemned and cruel fate and how she would rather die than dance again.
Sharpless could barely stand to watch, his heart breaking for her with every sob until he couldn’t hold his own tears back. Addressing her son, he asked, “What is your name?”
The boy said, “Trouble, but that if you write to Father, and if Father comes. Mother will change my name to Happy.”
Sharpless promised the boy that he would tell his father just that. He bid farewell to Butterfly and exited quickly.
Outside, Suzuki cried out as she dragged Goro up the hill. She called him a liar and a vile serpent. Butterfly heard the commotion and asked Suzuki what was going on. “His is a reptile spewing poison!” Suzuki answered. “From dawn to midnight, he whispers slander and tells the world that no one knows whose child your little boy is!”
Putting up his hands in defense, Goro squeaked out, “I tell them only the truth: in America, a child like this one, a child born out of wedlock, will always be an outcast among the decent people.”
Butterfly ran to the shrine and seized the knife hanging there. She screamed at him and called him a liar over and over. She grabbed Goro and pulled his arm causing him to fall. She pointed the knife at him, threatening to kill him. Goro averted his eyes and squealed. Suzuki shouted no and picked up the child and took him into another room. Butterfly yelled at Goro to leave, and so he did, he bolted up and fled.
Butterfly stood there motionless for ages, as if turned to stone. When she began to come back down to earth, she put the knife away and told her son that she knew, in her heart, that his father would return.
At that moment they heard a cannon shot in the harbor. Suzuki and Butterfly both ran toward the terrace. They could see a naval ship in the harbor with an American flag.
Butterfly exclaimed, “Everyone has been lying! Suzuki, your doubts have been silly! My beloved is finally here.”
She sobbed tenderly and Suzuki tried to calm her. Butterfly told Suzuki she didn’t need to be comforted, that she wasn’t crying, she was laughing. “How long do you think we will have to wait. One hour? Two?”
She turned her thoughts to his arrival. She instructed Suzuki to collect every kind of sweet blossom she could: jasmine, peach, cherry, every sweet flower, so that the house may smell like springtime. Suzuki collected every petal from the garden, and still Butterfly asked for more.
Suzuki helped Butterfly brush her hair, put on rouge and get dressed. Butterfly looked in the mirror and saw what the years of sadness had done to her face. She put a little rouge on Trouble’s face so that he might not look pale from staying up so late. Then she thought about her Uncle Bonzo and her cousins. How happy they were to see her misfortune. She thought about their faces when they saw what fools they were.
Butterfly asked for her wedding obi and a poppy to put in her hair. They closed the shoshi and made three holes so they could peek through. One hole was high for Butterfly to look out of, there was a lower one for Suzuki and an even lower one for Trouble. They peered through the soshi into the moonlit garden and waited. The child soon fell asleep on a cushion. Suzuki fell asleep next, still sitting on her haunches. But Butterfly remained resolute and standing upright all night long. She was sure she would see him come up the path at any moment. She could see it happening over and over in her mind.
Suzuki awoke with a start at the sunrise. She stood and tapped Butterfly on the shoulder. “Cio-Cio-San.”
“He’ll come,” Butterfly said confidently. “You’ll see. He’ll come.”
“Please try to get some rest, you are exhausted, and when he gets here, I’ll call you down.”
Butterfly did as Suzuki told her and retired to her room.
A short while later there was a tap at the door. Suzuki opened the shoshi and found that Sharpless and Pinkerton had arrived. She instructed them to be quiet and allowed them to enter.
“She was terribly tired,” Suzuki told them. “She never slept a wink, waiting here for you with the baby.”
“How did she know?” Pinkerton asked.
“For the last three years, she has looked at every ship that has docked to see the color of its flag.”
Sharpless gave Pinkerton a very I-told-you-so look.
“Shall I call her?” Suzuki offered.
“Please do not,” Pinkerton said.
Suzuki pointed out the wilted blossoms and told Pinkerton that Butterfly did it to welcome him.
Sharpless, feeling a pang in his chest, once again looked at Pinkerton and said he told him so. Pinkerton, felt conflict in his heart and told Sharpless that it hurts him.
Suzuki heard a noise in the garden and looked out. She cried in surprise at what she saw: a woman had accompanied them up the hill. She asked who it was, but Pinkerton didn’t answer. Sharpless prodded him and Suzuki repeated her question.
Embarrassed, Pinkerton answered, “She came with me.”
At Pinkerton’s failure to be clear, Sharpless, very deliberately, told Suzuki. “That woman is Pinkerton’s wife.”
Dumfounded and hopeless, Suzuki fell to the floor and prayed to the ancestors. Sharpless helped her up and took her out to the garden. He explained to her that they arrived so early in the morning so that they could seek her help for Butterfly’s sake. With sincerity he told her that he didn’t know how to console such sorrow, but the child deserved a better station in life. He told her to think about the boy’s future and he promised that Mrs. Pinkerton would raise him as her own.
Suzuki’s heart filled with despair. How could Sharpless ask her to deliver such news to a loving mother? Her heart broke for herself and it broke again for Butterfly.
Pinkerton paced in the house, growing agitated, He couldn’t stand the smell of the flowers any longer. The place, where he once loved, now felt like the cold hand of death. He noticed that she had kept his picture, he thought of her counting each passing moment, waiting for him to come back.
Overcome by emotion and no longer able to hold back his tears, he went to Sharpless and told him he couldn’t stay any longer. He admitted that he was guilty of hurting her and asked that Sharpless be kind enough to help her face it.
Sharpless chastised him and told him that he tried to warn him that Butterfly was sincere. That he tried to tell Butterfly, but her hope betrayed her.
Pinkerton, unable to control his emotions any longer, broke out and said, “Now, in one single moment I see how I have wronged her, and how this vile and craven betrayal will haunt my heart!”
Sharpless told him to leave, the bitter truth was for Butterfly to learn alone.
Pinkerton looked at the home one last time and tried to emblazon its enchantment on his heart so that he may keep the thought of her with him.
Pinkerton began his journey down the hill and his wife, Kate, stayed behind. She asked that Suzuki make sure Butterfly knows she can entrust her son to her care. Suzuki agreed, but told her she must not be seen when Butterfly receives the news. They heard Butterfly stir in the house, and Kate hid in the garden.
Suzuki rushed in and tried to prevent Butterfly from leaving her room. Butterfly freed herself from Suzuki and jubilantly began looking for Pinkerton. She exclaimed that she knew he was there; she kept searching in case he was hiding to surprise her. She saw Sharpless standing alone and realized he wasn’t there after all.
Then she noticed Kate in the garden. She asked who the woman in the garden was and what she was doing there. Seeing that Suzuki was crying, she approached her and tried to console her.
“Is Pinkerton still alive?” Butterfly asked
Suzuki told her he is alive
“Will he return?”
Suzuki remained silent.
Growing irritated, Butterfly called Suzuki a viper and demanded that she answer. Suzuki told her that Pinkerton would not return. Confused by Sharpless’ presence and frightened by the woman in the garden, she stopped and tried to take in the scene.
Sharpless broke the silence and told Butterfly that Kate was the innocent cause of her suffering.
That was enough to make Butterfly understand that Kate was Pinkerton’s wife. “My life is over!” Butterfly cried. “Must I lose all I live for? My little darling—”
“Don’t say that!” Sharpless reached out to her. “Think that your selfless deed will save his future!”
“Unhappy mother, so unhappy! To give away my son! I shall! I must bow to his wish!” Butterfly told Sharpless and Kate to come back in a half an hour to take the boy. She asked that Suzuki close the shoshi, the bright sunlight outside betrayed her breaking heart. Then she told Suzuki to go play with the boy and leave her alone.
Suzuki wept and asked to stay, but Butterfly clapped her hands and insisted that this was an order.
When she could no longer hear Suzuki’s sobs, she stood and walked over the lacquered box that hung by the image of Buddha. She removed the knife from the box and kissed the blade. In a low voice she read the words engraved on the knife.
Let him die with honor, who can no longer live with honor.
She held the blade at her throat and began to press. The door to the room opened and Suzuki pushed the boy in toward his mother. Butterfly dropped the knife, rushed to the boy, and smothered him with kisses. She pressed his head to her chest as she thought how she must die so that he can live his life beyond the ocean. She hoped that he would never remember that his mother abandoned him. She bid him goodbye forever and told him to go play. She handed him a doll and an American flag, and then she delicately blindfolded him. She picked up the knife and walked over to the dressing screen.
Behind the screen, the knife fell to the floor.
She wrapped a great white veil around her neck.
With a weak smile she waved to the child and crawled toward him, she embraced him, then fell to his side.
Outside Pinkerton had returned. “Butterfly! Butterfly!” He tore open the door and rushed in with Sharpless. But it was too late. Butterfly looked at him and pointed toward the boy before she drew her last breath. Pinkerton fell to his knees while Sharpless, sobbing, picked up the boy and kissed him.