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Having abandoned her faith and family, Butterfly has produced a son for the three-year absent Pinkerton, and remains unshaken in her belief that he will return. Before crushing her, Puccini gives her a deservedly famous aria, 'Un bel di' [listen -- 'Un bel di, vedremo' (Act 2), DVD2 chapter 2, 0:00-1:16]. The wretched Sharpless tries his best to tell Butterfly the contents of a letter Pinkerton has sent, but fails dismally and is then faced with the public nuisance of an operatic child. Butterfly movingly whispers that his name is now 'Sadness', but at his father's return it will be 'Joy' [listen -- 'Io scendo al piano' (Act 2), DVD2 chapter 9, 0:35-1:08].

From left to right, Butterfly (Cheryl Barker), Suzuki (Catherine Keen), Sharpless (Richard Stilwell) and Kate Pinkerton (Anneleen Bijnen). DVD screenshot © 2003 NPS
From left to right, Butterfly (Cheryl Barker), Suzuki (Catherine Keen), Sharpless (Richard Stilwell) and Kate Pinkerton (Anneleen Bijnen). DVD screenshot © 2003 NPS

The Suzuki of Catherine Keen has dismissed her exhausted mistress to rest, and is therefore alone when the consul and Pinkerton quietly knock at the non-existent door for admittance. She has also observed a strange woman in the garden. In the work's context and that of recent history, Puccini's occasional reference to 'The Stars and Stripes' can now sound only wickedly ironic. The men urge Suzuki to break the news to Butterfly, adding the sweetener of an American mother (the Kate Pinkerton of Anneleen Bijnen) and a standard American upbringing for the child [listen -- 'Io so che alle sue pene' (Act 2), DVD2 chapter 18, 0:54-1:55]. Kate tries her best with Suzuki, but the devastated Butterfly prefers the comfort of an honourable Japanese death by her father's dagger [listen -- 'Glielo dirai?' (Act 2), DVD2 chapter 20, 1:01-1:35].

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Copyright © 5 April 2006 Robert Anderson, Cairo, Egypt

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