Set in early 20th-century Japan, Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly is a tragic opera presented in three (originally two) acts. Cio-Cio San, also known as Madama Butterfly, hails from a noble family that has fallen on hard times. She provides for herself as a geisha until she marries an American naval officer, Lieutenant Pinkerton. Before the wedding, Butterfly secretly converts to Christianity. When her priest uncle, the Bonze, finds out, he furiously curses her for turning her back on her family’s religion.
Three years into the marriage, Pinkerton is off at sea and Butterfly is anxiously awaiting his return after a long absence. Her friends have been trying to interest her in a replacement husband because they think that her American spouse has deserted her. Butterfly, who has borne Pinkerton a son, insists that Pinkerton will return. Pinkerton does return, but he is accompanied by his new American wife. A devastated Butterfly promises to give up her child to be raised by Pinkerton and his other bride. Unable to live with the shame, Butterfly fatally stabs herself, dying just as Pinkerton arrives to collect the child.