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Madame Butterfly In Film

Ana María Martínez as the title character in Madame Butterfly (2016); Photo: Ken Howard

Ana María Martínez as the title character in Madame Butterfly (2016); Photo: Ken Howard

Between “Nessun dorma” (Turandot) and “O soave fanciulla” (La Boheme), Puccini’s compositions are arguably the most widely used operatic music in cinema. Yet, it is not only his music that has been used, but also his dramatic storylines. Take Madame Butterfly. The story follows the trials of Cio-Cio San, a Japanese geisha, who marries American naval officer Pinkerton. She loves him, but he abandons her and returns to the United States. Pinkerton returns three years later – a new American wife in tow – and demands that Cio-Cio give up their son. Puccini’s tragic east meets west tale has been adapted into many films (including a 1975 filmed opera starring Mirella Freni and Plácido Domingo and a 1995 filmed opera conducted by James Conlon).

Madame Butterfly (1915)

This film is what happens when one of the greatest silent movie actresses – Mary Pickford – tackles Madame Butterfly.

Madame Butterfly (1932)

Marion Gering’s film is not a musical, but it does utilize a significant amount of Puccini’s music and stars a dashingly youthful Cary Grant as Pinkerton.

  1. Butterfly (1993)

David Cronenberg (who made his LA Opera debut directing The Fly in 2008) updated Puccini’s tale to 1960s China, just before the Cultural Revolution. In the film, a French diplomat (Jeremy Irons) falls in love with a Chinese opera diva, unaware that she is actually a man (played by John Lone).

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