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Cio-Cio San is heard in the distance joyously singing of her wedding. Entering surrounded by friends, she tells Pinkerton how when her family fell on hard times she had to earn her living as a geisha. In a quiet moment, Cio-Cio San shows her bridegroom her few earthly treasures and tells him of her intention to embrace his Christian faith. The Imperial Commissioner performs the wedding ceremony and the guests toast the couple. The celebration is interrupted by Cio-Cio San's uncle, a Buddhist priest who bursts in, cursing the girl for having renounced her ancestors' religion. Pinkerton angrily sends the guests away. Alone with Cio-Cio San in the moonlit garden, he dries her tears, and she joins him in singing of their love.
ACT II. Three years later. Cio-Cio San waits for her husband's return. Her maid Suzuki prays to her gods for aid while her mistress stands by the doorway with her eyes fixed on the harbor. Sharpless brings a letter from Pinkerton, that advises him that he will not return to Cio-Cio San, but before the Consul can read the letter to her, Goro enters with the wealthy Prince Yamadori. He tells her that Yamadori will take her as his wife, but she dismisses them both, insisting she is still married. Left alone, Sharpless again starts to read the letter. He tries to soften the upcoming blow by first asking, "What if Pinkerton does not return?" Her response is to defiantly go to the house and return carrying her blonde hair, blue-eyed son. She tells Sharpless that as soon as Pinkerton knows he has a son he will come back, and if he does not, she would rather die than return to her former life. Sharpless leaves without revealing the full contents of the letter. A cannon shot is now heard from the harbor. Seizing a spyglass Cio-Cio San discovers Pinkerton's ship entering the harbor. Delirious with joy she orders Suzuki to help her fill the house with flowers. As night falls, Cio-Cio San, Suzuki and the child begin their vigil.
ACT III. As dawn breaks, Pinkerton has not returned. Suzuki insists that Cio-Cio San rest. Humming a lullaby to her child, she carries him to another room. Before long, Sharpless enters with Pinkerton and his new wife, Kate. When Suzuki realizes who the American woman is, she collapses in despair. They convince Suzuki to help them persuade Cio-Cio San to give up the boy, so he can have a better life in America. Pinkerton bids an anguished farewell to the scene of his former happiness. Filled with remorse, he rushes back to his ship. Cio-Cio San enters expecting to find him, but finds Kate instead. Shattered by the truth, Cio-Cio San agrees to give up her child only if Pinkerton himself comes for him. Sending everyone away, she chooses to die with honor rather than live in disgrace. As she dies, Pinkerton is heard calling her name.
Giacomo Puccini was born in Lucca, Italy on December 22, 1858. He came from a family of church organists, choirmasters and composers. As a teenager he served as an organist to the area churches and played the piano as entertainment at social events. In March 1876, Puccini walked over thirty kilometers to attend a performance of Verdi's latest opera success, Aïda. This event changed his life and he decided that he would make opera his life's work.
In 1880 Puccini enrolled at the Milan Conservatory where he worked diligently at his music and received his diploma in 1883. In that same year he entered a competition for an unpublished one-act opera. His work, Le Villi, was not even given an honorable mention. However, it caught the attention of music publisher and promoter Giulio Ricordi and composer/librettist Arrigo Boito. They decided to fund a premiere production of the work. Ricordi later commissioned several of Puccini's most successful operas and his publishing house handled the printing rights for Puccini's music scores.
Twenty years separate the premieres of Giacomo Puccini's first opera, Le Villi from the premiere of his sixth opera, Madama Butterfly. In those twenty years, Puccini had become the acknowledged heir to the great Giuseppe Verdi as the leading composer of Italian opera, blazing a trail of success that moved opera into new realms of realism.
Puccini collaborated with several librettists on his works, including Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. His most famed operas include: Manon Lescaut (1893), La bohème (1896), Tosca (1900), Madama Butterfly (1904), La fanciulla del West (1810), Il Trittico—a collection of three one-act operas: Il tabarro, Suor Angelica, and Gianni Schicchi (1918), and Turandot (1926)—unfinished at the time of Puccini's death and later completed by Franco Alfano, one of Puccini's protégées.
Puccini was somewhat reclusive. He preferred his home in the country to hectic city life and enjoyed hunting and long walks through the countryside. He was a lifelong smoker, particularly of cigars, and in 1924 was diagnosed with throat cancer. He underwent surgery which left him no longer able to speak and died of a heart attack four days later on November 29, 1924 in Brussels.
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Enjoy the beauty of the original language and understand it all with English translations. The English text is projected on a screen above the stage for each opera. Easy to follow, and easy to understand every twist and turn of the plot!