• Puccini
  • March - April 2019
  • Dublin

Madama Butterfly

Sung in Italian with English surtitles.

Duration: 3 hours including an interval of 20 minutes after Act I

Please note, the performance on the 28th March will be recorded by RTÉ for future broadcast.

“Glorious Butterfly proves a mesmerising spectacle” - Sunday Business Post
“The core soloists are also strongly cast. They’re spearheaded by the ardent Jimmy Mahoney of tenor Julian Hubbard, whose fast vibrato suits the restless, febrile impulses driving the character forward in the dog-eat-dog environment which surrounds him.” - Bachtrack.com

Madama Butterfly takes us on the emotional journey of a devoted young asian woman as she faces the truth about Pinkerton, the US navy lieutenant she marries. Sound advice from her maid, Suzuki, and the American consul, Sharpless, falls on deaf ears. The worldly-wise Pinkerton sets up house with Butterfly. But he deserts her, leaving her isolated from family and friends.

“One of the most moving, communicative, and emotionally cathartic inventions in the history of music and, I dare say, theatre, as well” - John Bell Young in Puccini, a Listener’s guide

Puccini’s orientally-tinged and compassionate score includes the famous Humming Chorus and the rose-tinted expectation of the aria Un bel di. Butterfly holds on to hope as she longs for the “one fine day” on which her departed lover will return. He does... But not for the kind of reunion she dreamed about.




Cast & Creative Team


Madama Butterfly (Cio-Cio-San) Celine Byrne
B.F. Pinkerton (Lieutenant in the United States Navy) Julian Hubbard
Sharpless (United States Consul) Brett Polegato
Suzuki (Cio-Cio-San’s servant) Doreen Curran
Goro (a marriage broker) Eamonn Mulhall
The Bonze (Cio-Cio-San’s uncle) John Molloy
Kate Pinkerton (March 24, 26, 28, 30) Niamh O'Sullivan
Kate Pinkerton (April 4 & 5) Rachel Croash
Prince Yamadori Brendan Collins
The Imperial Commissioner Robert McAllister
The Official Registrar Kevin Neville
Yakusidé Cormac Lawlor
Cio-Cio-San’s Mother Bríd Ní Ghruagáin
Cio-Cio-San’s Cousin Amy Ní Fhearraigh
Cio-Cio-San’s Aunt Margaret Bridge
Sorrow (Cio-Cio-San’s Child) 24, 30 March 5 April Jordi McQuaid Roman
Sorrow (Cio-Cio-San’s Child) 26, 28 March 4 April Jack Manning

Creative Team

Conductor Timothy Redmond
Director Ben Barnes
Set Designer Todd Rosenthal
Costume Designer Joan O'Clery
Lighting Designer John Comiskey
Video Designer Aaron Kelly
Movement Director & Choreographer Libby Seward
Assistant Director Sarah Baxter
Assistant Conductor & Chorus Director Sinead Hayes
Irish National Opera Chorus
RTÉ Concert Orchestra


Act I

Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton, an American soldier-adventurer, a lieutenant in the United States Navy, is shown around his newly- acquired Asian property by the local fixer, Goro. He is shortly to marry an impoverished girl, Cio-Cio-San, known as Butterfly, and the house will be his love nest.

Sharpless, the American Consul, arrives and the two men enjoy a drink as Pinkerton expounds his convenient and easy philosophy of love. Pinkerton has bought the house on a lease he can relinquish at any moment, and he boasts that he can also marry his bride and abandon her when he wishes to settle down with an American wife. Sharpless, who heard of Cio-Cio-San and knows how seriously and genuinely she takes Pinkerton’s proposal, warns against this laissez-faire attitude. Pinkerton, in his excitement and anticipation, dismisses these concerns.

Butterfly and her friends arrive and pay their respects. We learn that Cio-Cio-San comes from a good family fallen on hard times. She shows Pinkerton her possessions, including the sword her father used in his ritual suicide. Her relatives arrive noisily and the brief wedding ceremony takes place. Pinkerton is congratulated by the Commissioner and a toast is proclaimed to the happy couple by the relatives.

This is interrupted by the arrival of one of Cio-Cio-San’s uncles, the Bonze, who reveals that she has renounced her own religion in favour of that of her new husband. The relatives, who only a moment earlier were toasting the newly weds, now turn on the frightened bride. Pinkerton steps in and scatters the mob. As evening draws in the maid Suzuki and the servants prepare the house. The newly weds proclaim their love for one another and retire for the night.

Act II

It is three years later. Pinkerton has not returned. The house, now kitted out with the trappings of American life and culture, is tired and drab and a short-tempered Cio-Cio-San and her servant Suzuki await the return of the man of the house.

Sharpless arrives with a letter from Pinkerton, but before he can read it Goro appears with the rich merchant, Yamadori, who is seeking to marry Cio-Cio-San. She stubbornly refuses to accept that her abandonment by Pinkerton signifies that she is available to marry again. She cites American laws and customs, now that she herself is an American by marriage and by conviction. Yamadori is refused and dejectedly goes away leaving Sharpless to convey the news that Pinkerton will not be coming back. In her desperation Cio-Cio-San reveals that she has borne a child by Pinkerton and introduces him to the Consul. There is no doubt that the blue-eyed child is that of BF Pinkerton. Before dismissing Sharpless, Cio-Cio-San briefly imagines what it would be like to go back to a vagrant existence. She concludes that she would prefer to end her life rather than countenance that dishonour.

Sharpless leaves, and Suzuki tries to comfort Cio-Cio-San. She is interrupted by the arrival of Pinkerton’s ship, the Abraham Lincoln, in the harbour. With renewed hope Cio-Cio-San hails the arrival of her husband and she and Suzuki settle in for the long vigil of waiting through the night having first strewn the floor with flowers to welcome home the long-absent husband.


Dawn comes and the city awakens.

Cio-Cio-San has not moved from her position all night but is now persuaded by Suzuki to rest. No sooner has she gone to bed than Pinkerton and Sharpless arrive to reveal that Pinkerton has married again and his new wife, Kate, is in the garden. They have come to take Pinkerton and Cio-Cio-San’s child away to a better life in the United States. Suzuki is persuaded to help them and Pinkerton leaves again, unable to cope with his conflicting emotions. Cio-Cio-San awakens and returns to learn her terrible fate from Suzuki and to encounter the woman who has taken her place. Kate assures Cio-Cio-San that she will take good care of the child. Cio-Cio-San acquiesces and asks that they all return in half an hour when the child will be ready to go with them.

In one desperate attempt to avert the inevitable, Suzuki leads the child, who is named Sorrow, into the room. Cio-Cio-San bids farewell to Sorrow and blindfolds him to spare him the sight of his mother’s death as she uses the sword her father used in his suicide to take her own life. Pinkerton and Sharpless arrive back, but it is too late.

Discover More