YMMV / Madame Butterfly

  • Adaptation Displacement: Madame Butterfly started its existence as a short story by John Luther Long, inspired both by stories his sister had written to him about life in Japan and Pierre Loti's semi-autobiographical novel Madame Chrysanthème. It was then adapted into a play by David Belasco. Both of these were quite successful in their day, but today the opera is one of the most famous examples of the genre and has totally overshadowed its predecessors.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Pretty much any production with have its own take on how sorry Pinkerton really is, particularly his My God, What Have I Done? moment. Sometimes he's genuinely remorseful, others he's complaining about the pain and guilt he and only he feels, and some have anything in between. A lot of it depends on the translation being used.
  • Awesome Music: This opera is suffused with sumptuous, powerful music that carries the story along with an elegance that is rare even in opera. A great bonus is that Puccini, anxious for authenticity in the music, delved deep into traditional Japanese melodies, peppering them throughout the otherwise very Italian music and many times incorporating them directly into the musical line. It paid off and the result is not only music that "sounds" Eastern, but a lot of music that is genuinely Japanese.
  • Fair for Its Day: Nowadays, the play gets criticism for codifying the stereotype of Asian women as fragile and nothing without their Western men, but in its time it was meant to condemn the cruelty of the West towards the East via making Butterfly a victim of Pinkerton's thoughtlessness and jerk assery.
    • Another thing that must be remembered is that Butterfly is only fifteen at the start of the opera. She can hardly be expected to be an imposing, strong woman by that time in her life.
    • Besides all this, Butterfly was merely being slotted into the Western literary position of the Tragic Female, who is traditionally either helpless (Ophelia) or twisted (Lady Macbeth) as opposed to the Comedic Female (spunky like Rosalind) or Epic Female (strong and noble like Eowyn).
  • Fridge Logic: How did Sharpless not already know Butterfly had given birth to Pinkerton's son? He's presumably been keeping an eye on her in the interim three years, but missed that huge detail?
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Puccini wrote the opera in part to criticize America and the West's treatment of Japan, no doubt having things like Admiral Perry's forcible opening of Japan to trade in mind. But the theme resounds much more strongly to modern ears when you consider the opera is set in Nagasaki.
  • Tear Jerker: Definitely.
  • What an Idiot: People who are less receptive to Butterfly's woobieness (and even some who are) believe that while Pinkerton is a massive ass, Butterfly shouldn't be left off the hook. She is given warnings, help offers and/or useful advice by Suzuki, Gorou and even Sharpless... but she refuses all of this and chooses to wait for Pinkerton's return, still blindly believing that he'd come back to her. As the viewer can see, all of these backfire massively on both her and her child, and even if she's NOT responsible for Pinkerton's actions she is responsible for her own.
    • Pinkerton is just as stupid, if not even more. Ever since the start he's warned by Sharpless that this Japanese girl has taken the vow he takes for granted very seriously, and the consul spends the whole first act telling him not to be a jackass and to take Butterfly's feelings in consideration. He refuses to take Sharpless seriously and insists that he won't give her the time of the day after the first month, then takes off to America and acts almost as if Butterfly didn't exist. Of course she turns out to be THE Japanese woman who would take his "promise" seriously.