• Madama Butterfly

What to expect from Madama Butterfly

No opera is performed more often in North America than Puccini’s cross-cultural tragedy, Madama Butterfly. It is a tale of devotion and irresponsibility and misunderstandings willful and innocent. Critics have called Madama Butterfly compassionate and brutal, colonialist and anti-imperialist, disdainful of Americans and demeaning of Japanese. But audiences are enraptured by the humanity of Cio-Cio-San’s love—and by Puccini’s music, which is at once lush, evocative, and witty.

The story and its circumstances are historically accurate, more or less: foreigners in 19th-century Japan were entitled to take Japanese women as temporary “wives”. Enthusiasts have sought valiantly to identify the real-life models of stalwart Butterfly and her stunningly careless lover, Pinkerton. But whether or not a long-forgotten Cio-Cio-San ever gavebirth to an actual son called “Trouble,” the characters Puccini, Illica, and Giacosa created in Madama Butterfly have earned an indelible place in the world’s cultural memory.


  • Classroom Activities

    Two full-length classroom activities, designed to support your ongoing curriculum.

  • Musical Highlights

    Three "Musical Highlights" designed to focus briefly on bits of music from Madama Butterfly to cultivate familiarity with the work.

  • Performance Activities

    Performance activities for students to enjoy during the Metropolitan Opera HD transmission.

  • Post-Transmission Activity

    A post-transmission activity, integrating the Live in HD experience into students' wider views of the performing arts.

Madama Butterfly at the Met

This Met: Live in HD production offers your students an opportunity to participate in that global experience, to discover Cio-Cio-San and engage with the questions of fidelity and justice—and critical thinking—that pulse through this 20th-century masterpiece. In his production, the late filmmaker Anthony Minghella aimed to create a staging that was at once boldly theatrical, visually stunning, and artistically intimate. Students will see in this HD presentation that this Madama Butterfly is eye-catching for its exuberant, colorful costumes set against a sleek lacquered backdrop. But at its core, this story is about the heroine’s tragic journey. “It’s no good unless it breaks your heart,” Minghella said of the production.

This guide is designed to help students both luxuriate in the sheer sensory pleasures of Puccini’s opera and examine the complex, even ambiguous attitudes, feelings, and behaviors that doom Cio-Cio-San to her fate. Through a variety of interpretive and analytic activities, the guide seeks to enhance young people’s appreciation of Madama Butterfly and, in particular, this extraordinary Metropolitan Opera production.

The synopsis can be found here.