Japanese tragedy in three acts by Giacomo Puccini
A mountain-side near Nagasaki. The American naval officer B.F. Pinkerton is inspecting his new house. This is where his marriage to Cio-Cio-San - known as "Butterfly" - arranged by marriage broker Goro is to take place. Pinkerton wants to conduct a "temporary" marriage here with Butterfly before he returns to America. He believes in youth's right to adventure and exploiting one's own advantage. The American consul Sharpless warns Pinkerton not to play with Butterfly's feelings. Butterfly appears with her friends and relations. The marriage documents are issued in haste. Butterfly's relations disagree about whether her decision in favour of Pinkerton is the right one. The last guest to appear is Bonze, a Japanese priest. As keeper of Japanese tradition, he is aware of the doom which hangs over Butterfly's union with Pinkerton. He breaks with Butterfly and withdraws with the guests. Butterfly and Pinkerton, alone for the first time, make love and spend their first night together.
Three years later. Butterfly is counting the days since Pinkerton's departure. She is insistent that he will return. Her child is the only thing Pinkerton left her. Butterfly acts out his father's return for him. Suzuki - Butterfly's servant and confidante - tries to help the child find support in Japanese tradition. Sharpless brings a message to Butterfly that Pinkerton is soon to arrive in Nagasaki but suggests that he has no wish to see her. Goro tries to mediate between Butterfly and the rich Yamadori as suitor. He loves Butterfly but she rejects him. She insists on her marriage with Pinkerton and shows Sharpless her child. Goro is turned out because he openly denies that Pinkerton is the child's father. Pinkerton's war ship arrives in the harbour. Butterfly is triumphant, and excitedly decorates the house in anticipation. While Suzuki, Butterfly and the child wait for Pinkerton to arrive, Suzuki and the child fall asleep.
Suzuki sends the exhausted Butterfly to bed with her child. Sharpless, Pinkerton and Kate, his new wife, arrive. They want to take the child to America. Pinkerton finds everything just as it was when he left. He cannot bear the memory and flees. Butterfly awakes, sees Kate and realises the consequences. She requires Pinkerton to fetch the child himself. Butterfly bids the child farewell and kills herself in front of Pinkerton.