Although critics of Puccini accused him of artificiality and chasing success, among audiences, Madama Butterfly has enjoyed unending popularity. It may be the great emphasis on dramatic emotionality that we find in the work, based on David Belasco’s play. The current National Theatre production, directed by Jiří Heřman, grips audiences thanks to amazing visuals and a sense of poetry.
The protagonist of the story is the fifteen-year-old geisha Cio-Cio-San, nicknamed the Butterfly, with whom American offer Pinkerton falls in love, buying her from a Japanese marriage broker for a small payment. She gives herself fully to him and embraces his beliefs, for which she is condemned by the local religious community. Pinkerton, however, is a bitter character and he sails to America, where he spends three years. He marries again, while Cio-Cio-San gives birth to their son. She still waits for him with love in her heart, not knowing that Pinkerton will return to Japan with his new wife and take the baby with him to America…
The simple storyline is balanced by precise stage details, superb costume design and captivating scenes in the spirit of graceful Japanese lyrics. From beginning to end, the opera is essentially a work of art that produces a beautiful play of colours, light and shadow, and creates an impression of ceremonial timelessness. The soprano, Marie Kobielská, who plays the role of the young Cio-Cio-San, deserves much praise for her singing and acting, and owes nothing to Japanese sensitivities and classical opera tragedy.
The opera has three acts and is performed in the original Italian, with English and Czech subtitles. The musical accompaniment is provided by the Orchestra and Choir of the National Theatre.