Among all the works of art inspired by Japan, Madama Butterfly holds a unique place and is one of the most popular operas of all time, despite its disastrous premiere, after which it was immediately withdrawn and revised. Were these alterations ...
improvements? This guide explores how and why the libretto was softened to suit the tastes of European opera-goers, and the different variants of the texts are set out, side by side, for easy comparison. Professor Jean-Pierre Lehmann introduces the story and shows how the theme of a Japanese girl deserted by a heartless foreigner became a classic. Since John Luther Long's novella - on which the opera was based - is included as well, it is possible to judge how successful Puccini was in catching its essence in his hauntingly beautiful score, and for readers to assess for themselves the implication of the changes of emphasis, tone and characterization.