This show was to be seen in april 2019


Dutch National Opera & Ballet, Main Stage

Running time

2:50, 1 break


Not available

Woman from the back, blue lighting

Emotive and expressive

Coolly stylised, Robert Wilson’s sublime staging of Puccini’s heartbreaking Madama Butterfly accentuates the tragic narrative. A revival of the enthusiastically received 2002 production.

Emotive and expressive

Novella, play and opera

Puccini’s opera was adapted from David Belasco’s play Madame Butterfly, which in turn was based on the novella by John Luther Long and its sixteen-year old Japanese heroine, Cio-Cio-San (‘Butterfly’).


This is the true story of Cio-Cio-San, who marries the American marine officer Captain Pinkerton and has his child, only to be abandoned. The dramatic climax comes three years later, when Pinkerton and his new wife return to Japan to claim that child. Butterfly realises that what she believed to be a real marriage was merely an exotic adventure to Officer Pinkerton. Cio-Cio-San, alias Madama Butterfly, commits suicide by harakiri: ‘Better to die with honour’, she says, ‘than live with shame’.

East and West

Puccini’s composition, with its spellbinding counterpoint of East and West, interweaves leitmotifs evocative of Wagner with authentic Japanese melodies, which the composer studied extensively. Puccini himself considered Madama Butterfly to be his most emotive and expressive opera.

Two people in black dresses

Wilson’s abstract aesthetic

Robert Wilson’s (direction, set and lighting) Madama Butterfly is abstract in its aesthetic and shuns sentimentality. Instead of pseudo-oriental kitsch and scuttling women, he recreates an authentically Asian dimension in how he renders time, with slow, minutely choreographed movements reminiscent of Japanese Nôh theatre. Wilson’s sublimely austere sets and costumes combine with powerful lighting that paints and sculpts the stage.

Three people kneeled, two people standing on the left and right

Un bel di vidremo, the champion aria, she [Elena Stikhina] sings beautifully and she stays on that level for the entire night.

25 April

The highlight was without a doubt the long, nightblue play at the end of act two, culminating in the famous invisible and wordless buzzing choir. Wilson lets Butterfly and her servant and son wait for the morning and for death in silence. Magic.

30 January