Some of the mast extensive and significant textual changes in all of Puccini's operas appear in the published revisions of Madama Butterfly. Many of these verbal modifications, together with cuts and additions to the score, influence the dramatic depiction of the protagonists. Changes to Pinkerton's character soften an insensitive and even offensive figure who, after all, needs to be convincing as the object of Butterfly's love. For Cio-Cio-San, three rounds of revision mean a gradual loss of complexity on any fronts, bringing an exotic, mercurial heroine closer to operatic convention. The Butterfly that we know today has a more Westernized outlook than her original incarnation, and fewer distractions compete for her-- and our--attention. But revision is not always synonymous with unqualified improvement, and opera's multifaceted nature ensures that even the simplest modifications sometimes have wide-ranging consequences. While transforming Cio-Cio-San's character may not have been Puccini's goal in every instance of revision that affects her, the changes are nonetheless apparent, and their cumulative result may have exceeded expectation.

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Copyright © 2008 Olschki. This chapter first appeared in Atti su "Madama Butterfly: l'orientalismo di fine secolo, l'approccio pucciniano, la ricezione."

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