Madame Butterfly

Music by Giacomo Puccini

Libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica

Puccini's heartbreaking tale of innocence, betrayal and sacrifice returns in a bold and beautiful production by Jun Kaneko, designer of San Francisco Opera's dazzling production of The Magic Flute (2012). Patricia Racette, "who can rightly stand among the great Butterflies of her era" (Opera News), heads a superb cast including Elizabeth DeShong, acclaimed by The New York Times for her "rich, nuanced portrayal" of Butterfly's maid Suzuki; Brian Jagde, who "supplied what so many other tenors on today’s main stage lack: soul" (San Francisco Classical Voice); and Brian Mulligan, a baritone with a "rich, secure" voice who is "capable of sensitivity and musicality in perfectly executed moments" (The New York Times). "The visual component of this production is so compelling, and so intelligent, that it lifts this opera to a new level" (Toronto Globe and Mail).

For a complete listing of all Madame Butterfly performances at San Francisco Opera, visit our online performance archive.

Sung in Italian with English supertitles
Approximate running time: 2 hours, 50 minutes including one intermission

Pre-Opera Talks are free to ticketholders and take place in the main theater in the Orchestra section, 55 minutes prior to curtain.

Co-production with Opera Omaha

Production photos: Cory Weaver.

Audio excerpts from Madame Butterfly with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Donald Runnicles, 2007.


Cio-Cio-San Patricia Racette
Lt. B.F. Pinkerton Brian Jagde
Suzuki Elizabeth DeShong
Sharpless Brian Mulligan
Goro Julius Ahn *
Kate Pinkerton Jacqueline Piccolino
Prince Yamadori Efrain Solis *
The Bonze Morris Robinson
Commissioner Hadleigh Adams

Production Credits

Conductor Nicola Luisotti JUN 15, 18, 21, 24, 27, JUL 3
Conductor Giuseppe Finzi JUL 6, 9
Director Leslie Swackhamer *
Production Designer Jun Kaneko
Lighting Designer Gary Marder
Chorus Director Ian Robertson
Choreographer Melissa Noble
Fight Director Dave Maier

* San Francisco Opera Debut


Japan, early twentieth century. On a flowering terrace above Nagasaki harbor, U.S. Navy Lieutenant B. F. Pinkerton inspects the house he has leased from a marriage broker, Goro, who has just procured him three servants and a geisha wife, Cio-Cio-San, known as Madama Butterfly. To the American consul, Sharpless, who arrives breathless from climbing the hill, Pinkerton describes the carefree philosophy of a sailor roaming the world in search of pleasure. At the moment, he is enchanted with the fragile Cio-Cio-San, but his 999-year marriage contract contains a monthly renewal option. When Sharpless warns that the girl may not take her vows so lightly, Pinkerton brushes aside such scruples, saying he will one day marry a "real" American wife. Cio-Cio-San is heard in the distance joyously singing of her wedding. Entering surrounded by friends, she tells Pinkerton how, when her family fell on hard times, she had to earn her living as a geisha. Her relatives bustle in, noisily expressing their opinions on the marriage. In a quiet moment, Cio-Cio-San shows her bridegroom her few earthly treasures and tells him of her intention to embrace his Christian faith. The Imperial Commissioner performs the wedding ceremony, and the guests toast the couple. The celebration is interrupted by Cio-Cio-San's uncle, a Buddhist priest, who bursts in, cursing the girl for having renounced her ancestors' religion. Pinkerton angrily sends the guests away. Alone with Cio-Cio-San in the moonlit garden, he dries her tears, and she joins him in singing of their love.

Three years later, Cio-Cio-San waits for her husband's return. As Suzuki prays to her gods for aid, her mistress stands by the doorway with her eyes fixed on the harbor. When the maid shows her how little money is left, Cio-Cio-San urges her to have faith: one fine day Pinkerton's ship will appear on the horizon. Sharpless brings a letter from the lieutenant, but before he can read it to Cio-Cio-San, Goro comes with a suitor, the wealthy Prince Yamadori. The girl dismisses both marriage broker and prince, insisting her American husband has not deserted her. When they are alone, Sharpless again starts to read the letter and suggests Pinkerton may not return. Cio-Cio-San proudly carries forth her child, Dolore (Trouble), saying that as soon as Pinkerton knows he has a son he surely will come back; if he does not, she would rather die than return to her former life. Moved by her devotion, Sharpless leaves, without having revealed the full contents of the letter. Cio-Cio-San, on the point of despair, hears a cannon report; seizing a spyglass, she discovers Pinkerton's ship entering the harbor. Now delirious with joy, she orders Suzuki to help her fill the house with flowers. As night falls, Cio-Cio-San, Suzuki and the child begin their vigil.

As dawn breaks, Suzuki insists that Cio-Cio-San rest. Humming a lullaby to her child, she carries him to another room. Before long, Sharpless enters with Pinkerton, followed by Kate, his new wife. When Suzuki realizes who the American woman is, she collapses in despair but agrees to aid in breaking the news to her mistress. Pinkerton, seized with remorse, bids an anguished farewell to the scene of his former happiness, then rushes away. When Cio-Cio-San comes forth expecting to find him, she finds Kate instead. Guessing the truth, the shattered Cio-Cio-San agrees to give up her child if his father will return for him. Then, sending even Suzuki away, she takes out the dagger with which her father committed suicide and bows before a statue of Buddha, choosing to die with honor rather than live in disgrace. As she raises the blade, Suzuki pushes the child into the room. Sobbing farewell, Cio-Cio-San sends him into the garden to play, then stabs herself. As she dies, Pinkerton is heard calling her name.

Culture Clash

Gavin Plumley

By the time he was composing Madama Butterfly in 1901, the Tuscan-born Giacomo Puccini had already made a considerable name for himself.

Though his first opera Le Villi (1884) was rejected by the Sonzogno Competition—run by the revered Milan publishing house—and his second, Edgar, failed to make much of an impact at its premiere at Milan’s La Scala in 1889, Puccini was steadily moving towards his first masterpiece, Manon Lescaut. Combining a near-Wagnerian system of recurrent motifs within a sweepingly melodic score, Puccini fashioned the type of music drama with which he would continue to triumph internationally over the next few decades. Moving out of the limelight of La Scala, Manon Lescaut opened in Turin in February 1893, followed three years later by the premiere of La Bohème (though the critics were initially blind to its qualities). 
Fittingly Tosca, Puccini’s next opera, received its premiere in Rome (where the piece is set) in January of 1900. The verismo parallels between art and life have led people to think of these early operas as Puccini’s response to the urgent “slice of life” drama that had become all the rage, thanks to contemporaries such as Mascagni, Leoncavallo (who also wrote a version of La Bohème), and Giordano. Puccini was, however, different. Although La Bohème and Tosca show marked signs of theatrical verisimilitude—take the hustle and bustle of Christmas Eve in Paris in the former or the specific bells that announce dawn across the Eternal City in the latter—there is a parallel seam of deliberately heightened drama within these works.
While no one would doubt the power of either La Bohème or Tosca, both flaunt a “staged” quality. In Act Two of La Bohème, for instance, the musician Schaunard repeatedly says “la commedia è stupenda” (“the comedy is marvelous”), viewing his friends’ fractious relationships much as we, the audience, do. Having watched the drama unfold, Schaunard signposts the finale with “siamo all’ultima scena!” (“we are at the last scene”). Puccini and his librettists Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa (who went on to write the texts for Tosca and Madama Butterfly) seem to be commenting on the nature of opera performance here. And with Tosca, of course, they had a diva on their hands, continuing that theme of art reflecting life (reflecting art). 
The heroine of the trio’s next opera, Madama Butterfly, is a much more fragile creature, though one whose tale mounts to no less tragic a conclusion. But while this is clearly not an opera concerning an artist, it is one in which the protagonist’s role, that of a geisha, is similarly founded on a fiction; she is, exoticism aside, a prostitute. Even what she is called in the opera underlines that essential fabrication. As a Japanese girl, our heroine is named Cio-Cio-San, repeated furiously by her relatives when they burst in on her arranged marriage to Pinkerton. Her new husband, on the other hand, calls her Butterfly, in English, as if she were a delicate commodity that he can buy, keep in a box, and then discard.

Bridgeman Art Library

This shocking story came to Puccini’s attention while he was in London for the British premiere of Tosca in the summer of 1900 (just six months after that opera had first been produced in Rome). Puccini was largely tied up with rehearsals and swanky dinners, but he managed to find a free evening to attend a double bill of Jerome K. Jerome’s Miss Hobbs and David Belasco’s Madam Butterfly at the Duke of York’s Theatre. It was the second of these plays that caught his attention. The San Francisco-born Belasco wrote, directed, and produced more than one hundred dramas on Broadway during his lifetime and was revered on both sides of the Atlantic for the intense naturalism of his productions. So famous was he that F. Scott Fitzgerald included a tongue-in-cheek reference to Belasco’s theatrical trickery in The Great Gatsby. Hiding in Gatsby’s library during a party, Nick discovers a drunken “middle-aged man with enormous owl-eyed spectacles” looking through thousands of books, having doubted their substance.
“Absolutely real—have pages and everything. I thought they’d be a nice durable cardboard. Matter of fact, they’re absolutely real. Pages and—Here! Lemme show you.” Taking our scepticism for granted, he rushed to the bookcases and returned with Volume One of the “Stoddard Lectures.” “See!” he cried triumphantly. “It’s a bona fide piece of printed matter. It fooled me. This fella’s a regular Belasco. It’s a triumph. What thoroughness! What realism! Knew when to stop too—didn’t cut the pages. But what do you want? What do you expect?” He snatched the book from me and replaced it hastily on its shelf muttering that if one brick was removed the whole library was liable to collapse.
This suspension of disbelief, the brilliant artificiality of it all, these are the tenets of Belasco’s art, made manifest in the fourteen-minute transition from dusk to dawn that herald Pinkerton’s arrival in Butterfly. Puccini, like the visitors to Gatsby’s library, like the thousands of audience members who packed theaters in New York and London, was duly impressed. Indeed, the theatrical effects in the London production of Madam Butterfly must have been particularly powerful, as Puccini spoke very little English. Belasco later maintained that the composer rushed to his dressing room in order to acquire the rights immediately. It is a charming anecdote that when Puccini returned to Milan and put his publisher Ricordi onto the business of contacting Belasco’s representatives. Finally, by March 1901, Puccini had ensnared Belasco’s Butterfly and his colleague Illica began work on the scenario for a new opera, with Giacosa again writing the sung text.
But just as Puccini had struggled to understand Belasco’s English, there were to be further cultural misapprehensions during the creation of Madama Butterfly. The title’s conflation of the Italian and American nicknames for a Japanese geisha deftly demonstrates the national plurality within the piece. Writing to Ricordi in April 1902, Puccini said that “I am laying stone upon stone and doing my best to make F.B. Pinkerton [as Cio-Cio-San incorrectly calls B.F. Pinkerton] sing as much like an American as possible.” The following month he said that “I have composed the passage for the entry of Butterfly and am pleased with it. Apart from the fact that they are slightly Italian in character, both the music and the scene of this entry are very effective.” Perhaps the most insurmountable difficultly with this opera was that neither Puccini nor his librettists had ever been to Japan, whereas they had visited Paris and Rome (the locations of their previous collaborations). Indeed, after the comparatively straightforward work on La Bohème and Tosca, Madama Butterfly would endure a constant process of revision. Composed between 1901 and 1903, it was revised in 1904. Further modifications were made in 1905, before a definitive version was created for Paris, in three acts (rather than the original two), in 1906.
But regardless of the edition performed, Puccini, Illica, and Giocosa continued to view Cio-Cio-San and her culture from afar. Perhaps equally ersatz is Puccini’s interpretation of America, with its all-too-blaring insistence on the national anthem. When writing Butterfly, Puccini had likewise yet to make his first journey across the Atlantic, which eventually bore valuable commissions from the Metropolitan Opera and an enthusiastic new audience for his work. Viewed instead from the comforts of his home in Torre de Lago, neither Nagasaki nor the S.S. Abraham Lincoln was remotely familiar to Puccini and, tellingly, Illica’s early scenario featured a decidedly two-dimensional account of the Japanese. And though Puccini searched for more information about indigenous folk music, examples were few and far between. Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado (1885)—a copy of which is in Puccini’s library—had offered a decidedly supercilious glance at the East yet, like most of the great Savoy Comedies, it was intended as an allegorical slight at English rather than Japanese manners.
Ultimately Puccini made a virtue of his Western view on matters Oriental and the heightened tone of Madama Butterfly became its most ingenious meta-theatrical trait. After all, the kernel of the tragedy is ethnic misconception, which operates both on the surface and within the structure of Puccini’s opera. When Pinkerton quotes The Star-Spangled Banner his text changes from Italian (the opera’s lingua franca) to American English, just as do his cries of “Butterfly” that cap the tragedy. His music and language are meant to sound out of place. Decidedly more “native” is the music that precedes Cio-Cio-San’s entrance, in which Puccini employs those Japanese folk-tunes for which he had searched, with their distinct modalities and pentatonicism. But when Cio-Cio-San finally appears, she is accompanied by a cloud of Western chromaticism. She is already cocooned in Pinkerton’s (and our) view of her and she duly signs the marriage contract Madama F.B. Pinkerton. But the unknowing reversal of her husband’s initials is revealing; as noted scholar Julian Budden has suggested, she is “never more Japanese than when she imagines herself American.”
Cio-Cio-San’s uncle bursts in, reminding her of her real name and her origins (accompanied by an Oriental gong), but, sadly, the illusion is more attractive to “Butterfly” than the reality and the lovers’ duet, closing Act One, seals Cio-Cio-San’s fate. Another pentatonic melody emerges, though again it is significantly “Westernised” by underlying chromaticism. East and West meet through their equally tenuous views of each other. Cio-Cio-San repeats her new name, again cuing another orchestral statement of her family’s motif. The warnings are all there, but the lovers are entranced and are quickly swept up in one of Puccini’s most remarkable duets. In the original version, the composer included another glowering statement of The Star-Spangled Banner, jarring with Cio-Cio-San’s family’s music, though later revisions suppressed that clash, instead building to a dreamy climax, with the two lovers singing in unison.
The finale to Act One is but a brief moment of happiness in the drama. As the curtain rises on Act Two, Cio-Cio-San finds herself alone, stranded between “here” and “there.” In her famous aria, “Un bel dì,” she continues to fabricate dreams out of desire, though the illusion, suspended in time by the “Humming” chorus, finally comes crashing down when she is confronted by Pinkerton’s new wife. “Tutto è morto per me” (“All is over for me”) she says to Sharpless, the man who doubted Pinkerton’s intentions in the first place. Her admission provides the springboard to the horrific final scene, where artificiality falls by the wayside and a new urgent realism takes over. As Cio-Cio-San prepares to draw a knife across her throat, her and Pinkerton’s child, fittingly named Sorrow, runs in. She bids him farewell and Sorrow goes off to play, blindfolded, holding the American flag. Butterfly’s first picturesque theme sounds again, played slowly and unnervingly by the violas and English horn. The façade, so perfectly fashioned in the first act, has dissolved before us, as Puccini unravels its constituent motifs. Pinkerton, ignorant to the last, screams Cio-Cio-San’s name, again in English, while one of their yearning wedding-night themes crashes through the texture. But it is a Japanese folk tune, called “Pathetic Melody,” that accompanies Butterfly’s demise, sealed by a garish final chord, capturing the tragedy like a camera flash or a pin finally fastening Butterfly to the board.
Though it took Puccini and his librettist five years to establish the final form in which Madama Butterfly has been performed around the world, they eventually arrived at a structure that brilliantly underlines the culture clash at the heart of its tragedy. That misunderstanding is present throughout the motifs and melodies that constitute Puccini’s vivid score and though Cio-Cio-San and Pinkerton briefly find a common language in their duet, it is just pretense—a specious “Un bel dì” view of the world that eventually turns to dust.
Gavin Plumley is a British writer, broadcaster, and musicologist. He has written extensively about musical culture around the turn of the last century. Gavin appears regularly on the BBC and he commissions and edits the English-language program notes for the Salzburg Festival.

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Directing Butterfly

Leslie Swackhamer

When I first met Jun Kaneko, he was on a ladder with clay up to his elbows, working on a gigantic head.

When I first met Jun Kaneko, he was on a ladder with clay up to his elbows, working on a gigantic head. He joked that the piece might take two years to dry, and then he wouldn’t be able to say whether it would crack when it encountered the incredible heat of the kiln. I knew then that we would have a rich collaboration! As with one of Jun’s large clay pieces, we worked for over two years to create the world that was to be our Madama Butterfly. It was an incredibly rich creative and collaborative process born out of deep respect for Puccini’s masterpiece and its resonance within Jun Kaneko’s beautiful and profound aesthetic vision.

My background is heavily weighted toward the development of new work and I approach any play or opera I am working on as if it is a new piece. I start with the story. Yes, I of course research how it’s been done before, what traditions exist, and such. But, I really strive to find a way to strip away traditions and find what speaks at the core of the piece to today’s audience. I am not seeking to be new for the sake of new. I am seeking to find the inner essence of the piece—what leapt out of its creator’s pen, fueled by an original intent and passion—and connect that impulse and essence to a contemporary audience. When Puccini originally presented Madama Butterfly, the West was in the thrall of a fascination with all things “oriental,” and most audiences had few preconceived images of things or places Japanese. They would be able to see Japan through Pinkerton’s eyes as something new, exciting, and highly seductive. For today’s audience, images such as fans, hanging lanterns, and parasols, lovely as they are, have become clichés. How could we help the audience brush away the veil of these clichés and once again enter the exotic world of this opera with fresh eyes? And so, as Jun and I began to work together, we focused on that very basic thing that is at the center of all theatre and opera: the story and the impetus to tell it.

In our approach to Madama Butterfly, Jun and I focused on the story as more closely related to Greek Tragedy than to a civilized ornate opera. We sought to create a setting with an elemental power that would reflect the vortex of passion that sweeps the characters into the abyss. The story that Puccini creates through his opera is stripped of any real subplots or unnecessary detail. What would happen if we, too, stripped the design down to what was simply and absolutely necessary to tell the story?

Jun’s set creates a powerful metaphor for the emotional journey of the opera. A curving, downwardly spiraling ramp pulls the characters into the space. Behind them, a sweeping cyclorama, also curved, saturated with color. The playing space continues a feeling of spiraling inward to an off-center raised disc, which represents the epicenter of emotion, as well as Butterfly’s house. As in a Zen garden or the rippling sea, circles radiate from that disc. The imagination of the audience is a powerful thing, and we trust that a simple sliding shoji screen instigates a world of creative imaginings of Butterfly’s house. As the story progresses, other less literal screens dissect the space, and projections upon these screens mirror and provoke the emotional landscape. Jun’s art is the unifying element. When Butterfly and Pinkerton sing of the stars and the moon, traditionally most productions actually have a stardrop and some sort of moonbox. Instead, we approach this through the projection of painterly images. Hence, for example, Jun’s trademark polka dots embellish a dark blue screen, becoming the stars and the night sky.

The costumes must also be within the world of Jun Kaneko’s aesthetic, while reflecting the story and its characters. The cultural differences between East and West are central to the story, and they are reflected in the contrast in silhouette between the Pinkerton–Sharpless–Kate triad and all other characters. Goro, who mediates between East and West, represents a synthesis of these styles, with his fedora-ish hat, western trousers, and hybrid jacket. The Japanese characters have elements of traditional dress reflected in the tabi on the feet, cut of sleeve and drape of clothing. All are rooted in traditional dress extrapolated into Jun’s aesthetic. The choice for Yamadori, a cutaway coat with top hat, derives from research into Japan at the turn of the last century, where we found many Japanese people of wealth adopting this style. As the opera progresses into the final act and Butterfly’s hope washes away, so too does the color gradually bleach out of the costumes and set until what once started as a colorful rainbow of joy and hope stands starkly in hues of black and white. The final punctuation is through the color red. As the music itself embraces the Japanese chord structures, the image of the rising sun slowly bleeds.

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Nicola Luisotti on Madama Butterfly

Robert Wilder Blue

Nicola Luisotti estimates he has conducted Madama Butterfly over seventy times, including two productions in Japan. What brings this familiar opera to life for the maestro each time he approaches it?

“First, it is the story, which is so intriguing. There is the clash of these two cultures at the beginning of the 20th century: Japanese, which is bound by ancient traditions, and American, which is modern and, you could say, about breaking with tradition. But, of course, it is a tragic story about two people, a young geisha and a U.S. Navy lieutenant.
“The society Butterfly comes from is corrupt. Prostitution was illegal, but the law permitted a marriage contract to be voided easily. As Pinkerton jokes in the first act, he has bought the house and his bride for 999 years, but he is free to cancel both contracts any month he chooses. This was not a unique story in Japan at that time.
“Butterfly is not very bright; she’s delusional and really a little crazy. She might be fifteen, but she is more like a five-year-old—simple, naïve in an abnormal way. She makes herself believe that Pinkerton will take her to America, and she turns away from her family. She wants to transform herself into a different person. I don’t know if she is really in love with Pinkerton; rather, she is in love with American culture and the idea of being an American wife. She dreams of the freedom America will offer her, compared to the closed and controlled life available to women in her country. Then when she becomes pregnant, she knows her dream has come true. Pinkerton surely will take her to the United States.
“Certainly, Pinkerton behaved badly. I’m sure he grew fond of her and cared for her during the two months they were together before he returned to the United States. But, he never loved her. How could he?

“The most interesting aspect of the story to me is that Butterfly is really only a woman for the last ten minutes of the opera, after she sees Pinkerton’s wife and realizes what is happening. Then, she makes the only choice she can in order to avoid disgrace.
“The music of Madama Butterfly is so beautiful—too beautiful for what is happening at times. If you listen to the duet in the first act with Pinkerton and Sharpless, they are saying some terrible things, joking about this fake marriage and toasting to Pinkerton marrying a ‘real’ wife when he returns to the United States. And the music Puccini wrote for the last ten minutes is heart-breaking, starting with the beautiful cello line that is interrupted by the beating of the timpani, which is Butterfly’s heart pounding, and leads to ‘Tu, tu piccolo iddio,’ in which Butterfly pours out the profound shame and sadness she feels.
“When Puccini saw David Belasco’s play in London, he was deeply moved by the story. When the play had finished, Puccini presented himself to Belasco, weeping, and begged Belasco to give him the rights to it. Belasco responded, ‘how can I say no to a great Italian opera composer who is crying and hugging me?’”

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Madama Butterfly: Past San Francisco Opera Casts


1961: Sandor Konya (Pinkerton) and Leontyne Price (Cio-Cio-San)

1966: Teresa Stratas (Cio-Cio-San)
photo by Robert Cahen

1968: Nicholas Di Virgilio (Pinkerton) and Ingvar Wixell (Sharpless

1974: Giorgio Merighi (Pinkerton) and Renata Scotto (Cio-Cio-San)
photo by Carolyn Mason-Jones

1980: Yasuko Hayashi (Cio-Cio-San) and Kahlila Kramer (Trouble)
photo by Ron Scherl

1995: Philip Skinner (Bonze) and Catherine Malfitano (Cio-Cio-San)
photo by Marty Sohl

2003: Veronica Villarroel (Cio-Cio-San)
photo by Ken Friedman

2007: Zheng Cao (Suzuki)
photo by Terence McCarthy

2010: Svetla Vassileva (Cio-Cio-Can)
photo by Cory Weaver

To see complete information on all previous San Francisco Opera Madama Butterfly casts, including photos, visit our online performance archive.

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"The art of opera at its finest."

  –San Francisco Classical Voice
"A consistently strong cast, a beautiful and inventive production, sumptuous orchestral playing and canny conducting."

  –San Francisco Chronicle
Madame Butterfly "held a full house in thrall, thanks to the composer's soaring, sweeping melodies, impassioned direction by the conductor and a great soprano in the title role."

  –San Francisco Examiner
The audience "arose, almost unanimously to its feet to cheer Patricia Racette, one of our City's most beloved artists."

  –San Francisco Classical Voice
"Her Cio-Cio-San on Sunday—only the latest in a long, long string of San Francisco triumphs—Patricia Racette blended vocal ardor and sensitive phrasing with a fearless air of dignity and overall brilliance."

  –San Francisco Chronicle
"This was a production that raised the bar of how Madame Butterfly can be staged to previously unimaginable heights."

Designer Jun Kaneko's production "activates the senses. Its colors are complemented by the opulence of the voices in this powerful Butterfly."

  –San Jose Mercury News
"Director Leslie Swackhamer is Kaneko's creative collaborator here; their imagination permeates the production."

  –San Jose Mercury News
"The chorus blended into the effervescent textures of the orchestra, which performed with splendid precision under the baton of Nicola Luisotti."

  –San Jose Mercury News
"The production simultaneously intensifies the setting and strips away potential distractions.... The story takes on the power of mythology."

  –San Jose Mercury News
"All it takes is a performance as fine as Sunday's Butterfly to remind you why we love these operas in the first place—and why we keep coming back."

  –SF Chronicle
Patricia Racette's "Every facial expression and gesture, and the shape of virtually every vocal line bespoke a starry-eyed 15-year-old who had already tasted great tragedy."

  –San Francisco Classical Voice
Tenor Brian Jagde's voice was "strong, solid and filled with spirit."

  –San Francisco Classical Voice
"The love duet between Patricia Racette and Brian Jagde at the end of Act 1 was a feast of vocal color."

  –San Jose Mercury News
Brian Jagde's "velvet lyricism didn't let up, nor did his strapping vocal authority."

  –San Jose Mercury News
"Mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong brought a wealth of vocal color and physical power to the part of Suzuki."

  –San Francisco Chronicle
"Baritone Brian Mulligan sounded both warm and authoritative as the sympathetic American consul Sharpless."

  –San Francisco Chronicle
Efraín Solis, as Prince Yamadori, created a "beautifully voiced and ultimately defeated suitor whose heart opened when Sharpless alerted him to the tragedy that was about to unfold."

  –San Francisco Classical Voice
"Bass Morris Robinson took a furlough from his star-making turn in Show Boat for an explosive turn as the Bonze."

  –San Francisco Chronicle


  • Sun 06/15/14 2:00pm *

  • Wed 06/18/14 7:30pm

  • Sat 06/21/14 8:00pm

  • Tue 06/24/14 8:00pm

  • Fri 06/27/14 8:00pm *

  • Thu 07/3/14 7:30pm *

  • Sun 07/6/14 2:00pm

  • Wed 07/9/14 7:30pm

Save up to 30% when you purchase tickets to all three summer operas! Call the Box Office at (415) 864-3330 for information and to order!

*OperaVision, HD video projection screens featured in the Balcony level for this performance, is made possible by the Koret/Taube Media Suite.


Nicola Luisotti’s appearance made possible by Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem, Chairs, Amici di Nicola of Camerata. Ms. Racette’s appearance is made possible by a gift to the Great Singers Fund by Joan and David Traitel.

Cast, program, prices and schedule are subject to change.