Opéra Bastille - from 14 September to 13 November 2019
2h45 with 1 interval
Surtitle : French / English
In few words:
For his Madame Chrysanthème, Pierre Loti drew on memories of his own visit to Japan in 1885. When composing Madama Butterfly, Giacomo Puccini was inspired by the popular melodies and sonorities of Japanese voices. However, in the literary work, as in the opera, the heroine remains the same: Kiku-san or Cio‑Cio‑san, a young geisha betrayed by her western husband, the symbol of the meeting of two different worlds. Robert Wilson’s ethereal production espouses to perfection the dramatic intensity and underlying violence of this thoroughly Japanese tragedy.
The American, Pinkerton, is on temporary assignment in Japan. To enjoy his time there until his departure, he plans to marry Cio-Cio-San, a young geisha with whom he is infatuated. Goro, the marriage broker, has arranged everything. While the latter is introducing Pinkerton to his future servants, the first wedding guest to arrive is the American Consul. Assuring Pinkerton that Cio-Cio-San takes their relationship very seriously, the Consul cautions him not to destroy the young girl’s life for the sake of a passing fancy. The bride arrives, accompanied by five companions. Soon there-after the relatives and friends arrive. Two public officials declare Cio-Cio-San and Pinkerton married. The celebrations are interrupted by Cio-Cio-San’s uncle, a Bonze. Having learned that his niece has converted to Christianity, he bans her from her family and society. The other guests follow his example. Left alone, Pinkerton and Cio-Cio-San avow their love for each other and retire to the wedding chamber.
A few years have passed. Pinkerton has long returned to the United States. Cio-Cio-San has given birth to a son. Alone with him and her faithful servant Suzuki, she awaits the return of her husband. The Consul comes to pay her a visit. Pinkerton has written to him: he will be returning to Japan soon, accompanied by his American wife, and he has asked him to prepare Cio-Cio-San for his return. However, the latter’s endless interruptions prevent him from giving her the news. Yamadori, a rich prince, has asked for her hand in marriage. She refuses, considering herself legally married to Pinkerton. The Consul tries once more to read her the letter. Cio-Cio‑San grasps just one thing: her husband is returning to Japan. The Consul finally loses patience: what if Pinkerton were never to return? The words pierce Cio-Cio-San like a mortal blade. At nightfall, the sound of a cannon announces the arrival of Pinkerton’s ship. Wild with joy, Cio-Cio-San decorates the house with flowers and waits for him to come all night. The next morning, Pinkerton arrives at the home of Cio-Cio-San, accompanied by his American wife. He asks for his son, but avoids any encounter with Cio-Cio-San. Left alone, the two wives find themselves face to face. Finally understanding the reality of the situation, Cio-Cio-San commits suicide.
Opera in three acts
After David Belasco
Based on a short novel by John Luther Long