1. B.F. Pinkerton. There is some confusions about the correct order of Lieutenant Pinkerton's initials. In the original libretto, as performed at the 1904 premiere in Milan, he is called "F.B. Pinkerton", and during the wedding, the Imperial Commissioner addresses him as "Sir Francis Blummy Pinkerton". For subsequent productions the name was changed to "B.F. Pinkerton" and the Commissioner calls him "Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton". (In the original story by John Luther Long, Cho-Cho-San refers to him as "Ben-ja-meen Frang-a-leen Pikkerton".)

The 1907 score published by Ricordi is inconsistent: The Commissioner's line is changed to "Benjamin Franklin", but all other references are left as "F.B." Since this score is widely viewed as the authoritative edition, the question of Pinkerton's "real" name persists. Many later scores, including Schirmer's, call him "B.F." throughout, and that is what I have done with in this edition.

Incidentally, in the German edition of the libretto, the lieutenant's name is "Linkerton", presumably because in German "Pinkerton" sounds uncomfortably similar to a vulgar slang term for urine. [Go back: a b c ]

2. The present era. The libretto was published in 1904. Six years earlier the United States had defeated Spain in a war which was fought mostly at sea. As a result of the war, the United States had gained colonial possessions in Asia and began to assert military authority throughout much of the Pacific.

Rick Bogart has calculated that the story as told by Long must have taken place between 1891 and 1894. The first date is based on a reference to Cho-Cho-San's father's death in the Satsuma rebellion. The second date is based on a reference to impending United States military action in China. Neither of these are mentioned in the libretto. [Go back: a b ]

3. Trouble. In the Italian libretto, the name of Butterfly's child is "Dolore". Literally translated, this would be "sorrow" or "pain", and the English language libretto published by Ricordi (tr. Elkins) gives the name as "Sorrow" in English. In the original story by John Luther Long (written in English), the child's name is "Trouble", and that is how it is given in most English translations of the opera. [Go back.]

Madama Butterfly: Index | Personaggi | Atto I | Atto II | Atto III | Source | Footnotes

Go back to libretto/texts index.

September 17, 1999