Dutch National Opera presents

Madama Butterfly Giacomo Puccini | Robert Wilson

This show was to been seen in April 2019

Emotive and expressive

Duration 2:50

Breaks 1

By Puccini | Wilson

Language Italian

Surtitles Dutch and English

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.

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’.

the story

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.

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.

Musical director and cast

Jader Bignamini conducts at DNO for the first time.

The role of Cio-Cio-San is sung by Elena Stikhina (DNO debut), Suzuki by Enkelejda Shkosa (Zita in Gianni Schicchi, 2017).


Residentie Orkest The Hague
The Residentie Orkest has been around for over 100 years and is regarded as one of the renowned symphony orchestras of the Netherlands. While waiting to move in to the new cultural complex in The Hague, the orchestra is performing at the Zuiderstrandtheater (Scheveningen) and at pop temple Paard van Troje, as well as at other major venues in the Netherlands and abroad. The orchestra’s principal conductor and artistic advisor is the young Brit Nicholas Collon. Recent DNO productions: The nightingale and other short fables, The Gambler, Dialogues des Carmélites, The New Prince and La bohème.

Robert Wilson


Born in Waco, Texas, Robert Wilson is among the world’s foremost theater and visual artists. His works for the stage unconventionally integrate a wide variety of artistic media, including dance, movement, lighting, sculpture, music and text. His images are aesthetically striking and emotionally charged, and his productions have earned the acclaim of audiences and critics worldwide. After being educated at the University of Texas and Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute, Wilson founded the New York-based performance collective “The Byrd Hoffman School of Byrds” in the mid-1960s, and developed his first signature works, including Deafman Glance (1970) and A Letter for Queen Victoria (1974-1975). With Philip Glass he wrote the seminal opera Einstein on the Beach (1976).

Jader Bignamini


JADER BIGNAMINI is the permanent conductor of the LaVerdi Orchestra in Milan. The Italian made his debut in 2010 with Mahler's fifth symphony and in 2012 he conducted Andrea Chénier and Carmen with LaVerdi.

Team, Cast and Chorus

Jader Bignamini
Stage Director, Set & Lighting Designer
Robert Wilson
Costume Designer
Frida Parmeggiani
Lighting Designer
A.J. Weissbard
Residentie Orkest The Hague
Dutch National Opera Chorus
Chorus Master
Ching-Lien Wu
Madama Butterfly (Cio-Cio-San)
Elena Stikhina
Enkelejda Shkosa
Kate Pinkerton
Anneleen Bijnen
F.B. Pinkerton
Sergio Escobar
Brian Mulligan
Saverio Fiore
Il principe Yamadori
Tim Kuypers
Lo zio Bonzo
Carlo Cigni
Harry Teeuwen
Il commissario imperiale
Martin Mkhize - Opera Studio
L’ufficiale del registro
John van Halteren
La madre di Cio-Cio-San
Marieke Reuten
La zia
Tomoko Makuuchi
Dana Ilia
    Wed 14 Feb Het Financieele Dagblad, 2002

    ‘Minimalist spin on Puccini classic dazzles with harmonious synergy of light, costumes and colour.’