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Japanese Songs in Puccini's Madama Butterfly

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(Posted 2006-09-24; last update 2006-11-08.)

Below you will find public-domain transcriptions of ten traditional Japanese songs that Giacomo Puccini used in his opera Madama Butterfly.  Puccini probably learned most of these songs from a collection by Y. Nagai and K. Kobatake of Japanese songs (published 1891,1892), or from piano arrangements of Japanese songs by Rudolf Dittrich (published 1894,1895).  (I give two versions of one of the songs, “Sakura”: one a piano arrangement, and the other with just the melody.)

Following the list of songs is a table showing where each song occurs in the score of Madama Butterfly.


Nagai and Kobatake Songs Used by Puccini
Song Title View or Listen Date Posted
Echigo-Jishi 越後獅子 mus  pdf  mid  xml  about 2006-05-13
Kappore-Honen   mus  pdf  mid  xml  about 2005-09-01
Miyasan 宮さん々々 mus  pdf  mid  xml  about 2006-04-16
O Edo-Nihonbashi お江戸日本橋 mus  pdf  mid  xml  about 2005-09-01
Suiryo-Bushi 推量節 mus  pdf  mid  xml  about 2005-09-01
Takai-Yama 高い山 mus  pdf  mid  mp3  xml  about 2006-09-24

Rudolf Dittrich Piano Arrangements Used by Puccini
Song Title View or Listen Date Posted
Ha-Uta 端唄 mus  pdf  mid  mp3  xml  about 2006-09-24
Jizuki-Uta   mus  pdf  mid  mp3  xml  about 2006-09-24
Sakura さくら mus  pdf  mid  mp3  xml  about 2006-09-24

Other Japanese Songs Used by Puccini
Song Title View or Listen Date Posted
Kimigayo 君が代 mus  pdf  mid  mp3  xml  about 2006-09-24
Sakura (melody only) さくら mus  pdf  mid  mp3  xml  about 2006-09-24


Song Locations in Madama Butterfly

I have assembled the following table showing the Japanese songs that Puccini used and where each song occurs in Madama Butterfly.  I list the song occurrences in the order in which they appear in the score.  (Most of the songs occur more than once.)  While doing research for this webpage, I looked for such a table in the scholarly literature and did not find it.

Notation: The table shows location(s) in the score for each song by specifying (Act, Rehearsal-Number). For example, "I.37" means "Act I at rehearsal number 37".  Sometimes I show measure numbers, as in "II.56.6-12", which means "Act II, rehearsal number 56, measures 6 through 12".  "III.13-15" means "Act III, from rehearsal number 13 to rehearsal number 15".  The score I use is the Dover reprint of the 1907 Ricordi score.  The "DVD Start" column shows the approximate start time for the song in the Freni/Domingo/von Karajan DVD.

Song Instances in Score Order
  Score Location Score Page DVD Start Song Title Notes
1 I.37.1-I.38.2 61 0:14:51 Echigo-Jishi Goro sings before Butterfly arrives
2 I.44.1-I.45.6 76 0:20:21 Echigo-Jishi Sung by Butterfly. "Nobody admits being poor."
3 I.59 86 0:23:00 Kimigayo Arrival of Imperial Commissioner and Registrar
4 I.74.1-6 108 0:26:55 Ha-Uta As B. shows her possessions
5 I.75.1-4 109 0:27:20 Ha-Uta As B. shows her possessions
6 I.75.5-I.76.6 109 0:27:27 Sakura As B. shows her possessions
7 I.76.1-6 110 0:27:48 Ha-Uta As B. shows her possessions
8 I.87 125 0:32:42 O-Edo-Nihonbashi Butterfly's friends' congratulations
9 II.3.2-14 210 0:56:28 Takai-Yama Suzuki's prayer
10 II.13.15-19 234 1:04:40 Jizuki-Uta Fragment in aria "Un bel di"
11 II.18.1-5 242 1:07:27 O-Edo-Nihonbashi Fragment in clarinet before B. and Sharpless talk
12 II.20-22 247 1:08:50 Miyasan Sharpless talks with B. before arrival of Yamadori
13 II.26-29 257 1:11:00 Miyasan Arrival of Yamadori
14 II.27.1-6 258 1:11:30 Echigo-Jishi Fragment as B. describes Yamadori


269 1:12:49 Echigo-Jishi Yamadori says he will be faithful
16 II.39 283 1:16:00 Miyasan Departure of Yamadori
17 II.50.7-14, II.52.12-15 303 1:23:00 Kappore-Honen Butterfly shows her son to Sharpless
18 II.55.1-12 310 1:25:25 Jizuki-Uta In aria "Che tua madre"
19 II.56.01-9 314 1:26:29 Suiryo-Bushi In aria "Che tua madre"
20 II.56.10-17 314 1:27:23 Kappore-Honen In aria "Che tua madre"
21 II.57.1-11 315 1:27:51 Jizuki-Uta In aria "Che tua madre"
22 II.57.12-17 317 1:28:27 Suiryo-Bushi In aria "Che tua madre"
23 II.66 323 1:31:50 Kappore-Honen After chasing Goro away, B. tells son that Pinkerton will return
24 II.85.7-13 372 1:43:02 Miyasan During adornment duet, B. mentions Yamadori
25 III.0.1-8 382 1:49:05 Echigo-Jishi Fragment as orchestra begins act III
26 III.13-15 412 1:57:13 Kappore-Honen In morning, B. sings, "he will come…"
27 III.38.1-8 453 2:13:30 Kappore-Honen "They will take everything, even my son"
28 III.57.4-7 481 2:23:30 Jizuki-Uta Fragment interposed twice between Pinkerton's cries of "Butterfly!"
29 III.58 482 2:24:15 Suiryo-Bushi Last music in opera


Musicologists are not in complete agreement on the list of Japanese songs that Puccini used.  Furthermore, even if they agree that Puccini has used a song, they may produce different lists of places where they hear that song in the score.  Such disagreements are not surprising.  For while Madama Butterfly contains a few long, note-by-note quotations from well-known songs, at other places in the score, Puccini has perhaps transformed a familiar song with his special magic, or perhaps he has composed an entirely original phrase that sounds Japanese but does not exactly match any known song. Who can say for sure?


Among musicological works, I relied most on Kimiyo Powils-Okano's book and Kunio Hara's master's thesis, while also consulting Mosco Carner's biography, the delightful articles by Arthur Groos, and the book by Michele Girardi.  Kunio Hara's work is especially helpful because it contains important new insights and discoveries, is well-written, contains an excellent bibliography—and it is freely available on the Internet!  For most of the Japanese songs themselves, I examined the original versions in Nagai and Kobatake, and in Dittrich's two collections, and I transcribed them into Finale music notation for inclusion in this website.  I highly recommend the works by Lesley Downer and Jan van Rij for background information. Malm's book is an elegant general study of Japanese music.

  1. Carner, Mosco, Puccini, a Critical Biography, 3rd Edition, Holmes and Meier, New York, 1992.
  2. Dittrich, Rudolf, Nippon Gakufu (“Six Japanese Popular Songs collected and arranged for the Pianoforte”), Breitkopf and Härtel, Leipzig, 1894.
  3. Dittrich, Rudolf, Nippon Gakufu, Second Series (“Ten Japanese Songs collected and arranged for the Pianoforte”), Breitkopf and Härtel, Leipzig, 1895.
  4. Downer, Lesley, Madame Sadayakko, The Geisha Who Bewitched the West, Gotham Books, New York, 2003.
  5. Gerbino, Giuseppe, “Orientalism in Madama Butterfly” , New York Opera Project website at Columbia University, http://www.columbia.edu/itc/music/NYCO/butterfly/orient.html
  6. Girardi, Michele, Puccini: his international art, trans. Laura Basini, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2000.  [See also Michele Girardi's website of the Centro studi Giacomo Puccini (in Lucca, Italy), www.puccini.it, for extensive online information about Puccini and his works.]
  7. Groos, Arthur, “Cio-Cio-San and Sadayakko: Japanese Music-Theatre in Madama Butterfly”, Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 54, No. 1, (Spring, 1999), pp. 41-73.
  8. Groos, Arthur, “Lieutenant F. B. Pinkerton: Problems in the Genesis and Performance of Madama Butterfly”, in The Puccini Companion, edited by William Weaver and Simonetta Puccini, Norton, New York, 1994, pp. 154-201.
  9. Hara, Kunio, Puccini's Use of Japanese Melodies in Madama Butterfly, Master's thesis, University of Cincinnati, 2003.  Download from http://www.ohiolink.edu/etd/send-pdf.cgi?ucin1060955367 [Large pdf file, 3MB].
  10. Lawson, Anne, list of Puccini operas and premiere dates, in Opera Resource website, http://www.r-ds.com/opera/pucciniana/operas.htm
  11. Malm, William, Traditional Japanese Music and Musical Instruments, Kodansha International, New York, 2000.
  12. Miller, J. Scott, “Lost Melodies Rediscovered, Recordings of the Kawakami Troupe at the 1900 Paris Exposition”, Booklet packaged with Yomigaeru OPPEKEPE CD (see reference below), 1997.
  13. Nagai, Y., and Kobatake, K., Japanese Popular Music, A Collection of the Popular Music of Japan Rendered in to the Staff Notation, S. Miki & Co., Nos. 106 and 107 Shinsaibashi Road, Osaka, 1892.
  14. Nagai, Iwai and Obata, Kenhachiro, Seiyo gakufu Nihon zokkyokushu, pub. Miki Shoten, Osaka, 1895 (in Japanese; the cover displays an English title, A Collection of Japanese Popular Music).
  15. Pisani, Michael V., “Madama Butterfly”, [Description of various versions of the opera score], Sibley Library, Eastman School of Music, Rochester, N.Y. website, http://www.esm.rochester.edu/sibley/specialc/puccini/Butter.htm
  16. Powils-Okano, Kimiyo, Puccinis “Madama Butterfly”, Verlag für systematische Musikwissenschaft GmbH, Bonn, 1986 (in German).
  17. Puccini, Giacomo, Madama Butterfly, Movie on DVD, starring Mirella Freni, Placido Domingo, and Christa Ludwig, Vienna Philharmonic, Herbert von Karajan, conductor, filmed 1974, Deutsche Grammophon, 2005.
  18. Puccini, Giacomo, Madama Butterfly in Full Score, Dover, New York, 1990, republication of edition originally published by G Ricordi, Milan, 1907.
  19. Rij, Jan van, Madame Butterfly: Japonisme, Puccini, and the Search for the Real Cho-Cho-San, Stone Bridge Press, Berkeley, 2001.
  20. Walzenaufnahmen japanischer Musik 1901-1913/Wax Cylinder Recordings of Japanese Music 1901-1913, Audio CD + 96 p. booklet (German/Englisch), Musical Notes, Photos, A. Simon and S. Ziegler, Eds., Berlin: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, BPhA-WA 1 (2003).  [Contains music by the Kawakami Troupe recorded in Berlin, 1902, including Sadayakko singing.]
  21. Yomigaeru OPPEKEPE: 1900-nen Pari banpaku no Kawakami ichiza [“Oppekepe revived: the Kawakami Troupe at the 1900 Paris Exposition”], Audio CD, Toshiba-Emi.TOGC-5432 (1997).  [Contains music and Japanese speech of members of the Kawakami Troupe, recorded in Paris, 1900, including a performance of “Miyasan”.]


Public Domain

All of the Japanese songs on this page are in the public domain.  Copyrights on the original publications have expired, and I donate to the public domain my transcriptions of these songs.

(However, some works appearing elsewhere in the Daisyfield.com website are copyright.)

Tom Potter
September, 2006

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