Puccini's opera is based on David Belasco's play, which in turn is based on a short story by John Luther Long. Belasco and Long were both Americans. Both the play and the story were written some time around 1900. I ought to know the exact date, but I can't seem to find it right now.
Puccini saw the play in London, performed in English. He understood little of the words, but was inspired nonetheless. I have also been told that Puccini had heard a similar story from an in-law who had been a Catholic nun in Japan, but I haven't been able to confirm that.
As of this writing, the Belasco play is not available online. However, I know that Rick Bogart has it and intends eventually to post it on his OperaGlass site. By the time you read this, it may be posted, in which case you'll find it listed on the Madama Butterfly page on the OperaGlass site.
Long's story is available online from the University of Virginia hypertext project. For those who wish to read the story on the screen, I recommend that site. For those who prefer to print a copy, I have prepared a version in PDF format arranged for easy printing.
The Virginia website is my only source for the printed version. It has several noticeable errors. I have corrected the obvious typographical errors, along with a few spelling errors which may well be authentic in the original, and I have also done minor typographical editing throughout. There may very well be additional errors which are not identifiable in my source.
Also on the Virginia website, but not included in my PDF version, are a short biography of the author, the preface to the 1903 edition, and JPGs of the original illustrations from the book.
Madama Butterfly: Index -- Personaggi -- Atto I -- Atto II -- Atto III -- Source -- Footnotes
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