This is the original short story of Cho-Cho-San, a beautiful, fragile Japanese Geisha, whose trust and fidelity are betrayed by her husband, an American Naval Lieutenant. Stationed in Nagasaki, Lieutenant Pinkerton acquires his wife as casually as his house-- both leased for 99 years, with the option to cancel at any time. After their honeymoon, Pinkerton departs, promising to return. But for three long years, Cho-Cho-San awaits, and when he finally does return, he brings his new American wife-- and finds he has a son by Cho-Cho-San.
The original story that inspired Puccini's Madama Butterfly.
Then, in 1898, an American writer and lawyer known as John Luther Long, published the short story Madame Butterfly in Century Magazine. This story is based on the recollections of Jennie Correll, Long's sister, who had travelled to Japan with her Methodist missionary husband. It also shares influences from Loti's novel. He's used both the exotic and the classical in the illustrations of the short story, which reflects the blend of both traditional and Japanese styles in the fine arts movement during the turn of the 19th century, as well as the movement of Japonism, or the Western fascination of Japan after the Opening of Japan by Matthew C. Perry in 1854.
This short story inspired American playwright David Belasco to write a one-act play called Madame Butterfly: A Tragedy of Japan. The play premiered in March 1900 at the Herald Square Theatre in New York City and quickly became Belasco's most famous work. This work also caught the attention of Giacomo Puccini, an Italian opera composer most famous for La bohème and Tosca at the time, at its premiere in London. He had been so moved by the play, despite not understanding English, and wished to adapt it into an opera.
Puccini had written five versions of the opera, called Madama Butterfly (also called Madama Butterfly: Tragedia Giapponese in Italian), along with his librettists Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa (both had collaborated with Puccini for his operas La bohème and Tosca) yet at its premiere in La Scala in 1904, it was disastrous. He then revised it subsequently before it became the success that it is today. Now today, audiences know the story of Madame Butterfly as the tragedy of a young Japanese girl so in love with an American man, that upon discovering his remarriage to an American woman, she commits suicide. In fact, Madama Butterfly is a staple in opera houses around the world today, and according to Operabase, it is ranked 6th, just below Tosca, which ranks 5th, and La bohème, which ranks 3rd.
(It should be noted that in Long's short story, Butterfly does not commit suicide at all. It was Belasco who introduced the tragic ending in his play, which made it into the opera.)
Through sporking this short story, I want to be able to analyze the Orientalist themes that were common during this period, and I aim to criticize the work that helped create a narrative that seems to entrance Western audiences: the narrative of an East Asian woman becoming so devoted to a white man, that she cannot imagine her life without him and commits suicide when he abandons her.
There is going to be some offensive dialogue on the part of Cho-Cho-San, as it is in extremely broken English, and some themes of Orientalism and yellow fever. I do hope you look forward to it.
I- Sayre's Prescription
II- Mr. B.F. Pinkerton-- and his way
III- A Moon-Goddess Truly
IV- Trouble-- Meaning Joy
V- A Song of Sorrow-- and Death-- and Heaven
VI- Divine Foolery
VII- How he didn't understand her Whichever
VIII- The Bright Red Spot in Cho's Cheeks
IX- "'Bout Birds'"
X- Gentle Lying
XI- "'The Mos' Bez'nize Man'"
XII- Like a Picture of Bunchosai
XIII- The Good Consul's Compassionate Lying
XIV- The Blonde Woman
XV- When the Robins Nest Again