New York City Opera Project: Madama Butterfly

Selection 3: Butterfly/Suzuki: "Scuoti quella fronda"

This selection will be performed by NYCO at all three sessions:

Monday Oct 7 : 12:00-12:45 (301 Philosophy Hall)

Monday Oct 7 : 1:10-1:55 (301 Philosophy Hall)

Tuesday Oct 8 : 1:10-1:55 (301 Philosophy Hall)


The American Consul, Sharpless, has visited Cio-Cio San ("Butterfly"), in an attempt to break to her the news that her husband, Pinkerton, has married an American woman. However, he has difficulty getting the message through to her. He tries reading the letter he has received from Pinkerton, but first Butterfly makes stolidly polite conversation; then the marriage broker, Goro, brings her a suitor (Yamadoro) to consider, and there is a long interruption as she sends him packing.

Then Sharpless at last starts to read the letter. However, as he reaches the difficult part, he breaks off, stumbling to find suitable words. Instead of telling her the truth, he merely encourages her to reconsider the suitor she has just seen. Butterfly is angry, and dismisses him. But before he leaves, she shows him her little boy, Pinkerton's son -- unknown to either Pinkerton or Sharpless. The boy's name, she says, is "Trouble"; but it will become "Joy" when Pinkerton returns. Sharpless is aghast.

She breaks down, weighing the alternatives before her: to return to her geisha life, or to commit suicide. A moment later, a ship's gun is heard. She rushes out, and reads the name on the prow: "The Abraham Lincoln" -- Pinkerton's ship! She is sure he is returning to her as promised.


Joyously, she calls to Suzuki to pick a cherry-tree branch and shake its blossoms over her. Her maid is to gather all the flowers from the garden, and bring Spring indoors, until the orchard is bare and the garden is wintry (ominous words!). Their voices alternate in ecstatic exchanges, until finally they merging singing: "We'll scatter hands' fulls of violets and roses, blossom of vervain, petals of all kinds of flowers!" Finally, she begins to dress herself for the long-awaited meeting.

Important: When you have clicked the link below, click the icon for "Track 12" and continue through the end of that (5:37).

Performance of "Scuoti quella fronda"

Butterfly: Mirella Freni
Suzuki: Christa Ludwig
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. by Herbert von Karajan (1974)
Library copy: CD2263