Libretto for "A Chamber Opera of Lyric Tragedy in One Act" by Michael Pratt
Butterfly's Sorrow is a sequel to Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini. Madama Butterfly, set in Nagasaki, Japan in 1905, is the story of a fifteen-year-old Japanese girl named Butterfly who falls in love and marries an American naval lieutenant named Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton. Pinkerton, a cad merely looking for comfort in port, soon sails away. Returning three years later with his American wife, Pinkerton discovers he has a son named Sorrow (Butterfly will change his name to Joy when his father returns). Feeling remorse for the way he has treated Butterfly, Pinkerton wants to take his son to America and raise him with the advantages he would have there. Butterfly agrees to give up her son to his father and kills herself.
In between the stories of Madama Butterfly and Butterfly's Sorrow, Pinkerton returns to American with his wife Kate and his son, naming him Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton, Jr. After much persuasion Suzuki comes along as governess to the boy she has taken care of since he was born. The Pinkertons and Suzuki settle in California near his naval base. Ben is left fatherless when Pinkerton is killed in action during WWI. A few years later, when Ben is fifteen, Suzuki marries a Japanese-American and has a daughter. Ben joins the navy, like his father, and after many years of duty all around the world is stationed back in his hometown in California. He falls in love with Joy, the daughter of his former governess, and they plan to wed.
The setting is a beautiful flower garden/yard at Suzuki's residence in California. It is in the early afternoon several weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1940. A late afternoon wedding is to take place between Ben and Joy. While they are waiting for Joy's arrival, Suzuki and Ben go over some last minute details.
Ben: (dressed in his white, dress uniform) And I will stand here?
Suzuki: (dressed in a beautiful kimono) No, not there…here. And your Joy will appear through here. (pointing to a flower covered arbor)
Ben: My Joy and your Joy. What a fitting name you gave your daughter.
Suzuki: Your mother, Butterfly, named you Sorrow. She wanted to change it to Joy when your father returned but that was not to be. So I borrowed the name.
Ben: What a lovely arbor. You raise such beautiful flowers.
Suzuki: My poor dead husband was a good gardener…and teacher.
Ben: My stepmother loved this garden. She would have been happy today. I am sure she will be watching over us.
Suzuki: Your father would have been happy today as well, but even prouder of you in that uniform. (turning away from Ben) He died in the last war and now it starts all over again.
Ben: (to himself) Since Pearl Harbor we went to war quicker than anyone thought possible.
Suzuki: (turning back to Ben) Such a terrible thing. I am an American now. I love my home here. But we still have relatives in Nagasaki.
Ben: (sadly) It is very hard.
Suzuki: (upset) You might have to fight your cousins.
Ben: (calmly) The navy will not allow that. Suzuki: (still upset) Still…
Ben: (ignoring her) We will not have the crossed swords to walk under, but it was good to change to a small wedding here in this garden. My friends all hate the Japanese. Natural, I suppose, we are at war. But my mother was Japanese, how should I feel? I am half-Japanese. You are Japanese. Joy is Japanese. I do not hate you, I love you. And I am American as well. I love my country. What can I do? What will I do? (suddenly snapping out of his dark mood) I will go see what is keeping Joy. She is late. (exit)
Suzuki: (goes about arranging things) Maybe I have been wrong. It seemed so right, my Joy and my Ben. But now…? I am so afraid. He looks more like his father than his mother. He looks American. That did not matter. But now…? How can an American marry a Japanese when we are at war? Butterfly met a tragic fate. Is another tragic fate ahead?
Joy: (enters through the arbor dressed casually) Here comes the bride.
Suzuki: (embracing her) The Joy of my life. What a happy day for you and Ben.
Joy: (very excited) Do you think we have enough flowers? And chairs? Where will the Justice of the Peace stand? Where will Ben be when I come in? Where will you be?
Suzuki: (laughing) It is all arranged. Calm down. Ben went to find you. When he comes back we will walk through the ceremony.
Joy: Soon Ben and I will be together. (coyly) And then, who knows?
Suzuki: (looking at Joy intently) Who knows what?
Joy: (ignoring her) Ben's apartment at the base is so small. I wonder if there will be enough room?
Suzuki: It has more than enough room for you two.
Joy: (looking away) Yes…but…
Suzuki: (looking at Joy even more intently) But what?
(Joy looks at her and looks away) You are keeping something from me.
Joy: (looking down) It is a good thing, but you will be upset.
Suzuki: (impatiently waiting) And…
(Joy remains silent. Suzuki walks away a bit and sits down.) And…
(Joy remains silent) And you are pregnant.
Joy: (her head snaps up and she looks at her mother) How did you guess?
Suzuki: (laughs) Silly child. You think you are the first such bride?
(embracing her daughter) I am very happy for you. But does Ben know?
Joy: (sternly) No. And he will not know until after we are married.
Suzuki: But he must know. He has a right to know. You must tell him.
Joy: (alarmed) I will not tell him. He will think I trapped him. I love him more than anything. I love him more than life itself. But that is not enough. This new life is wonderful. But he must not marry me for that. He must marry me because he loves me. For no other reason. I know what he will say. I know how he will feel. My day is today. (placing her hands on her stomach) His day is tomorrow. Our lives must begin together for the right reason. Then this new life will be a true blessing. You will see that I am right.
Suzuki: But he does love you. The whole world can see that. He will be so happy. You must tell him.
Joy: (more alarmed) I will not tell him. And you will not tell him either.
(Suzuki looks away) You will not tell him.
(Suzuki keeps looking away) Promise me.
Suzuki: (after a long pause she turns back) Very well. I will not be the one to tell him. I promise you.
Ben: (returning) There you are. I was looking all over for you.
Joy: Mother and I are waiting for you. Let's practice.
(she stares at Suzuki, who slowly shakes her head)
Suzuki: (pushing Ben off to one side) All right. You stand there. Joy, you enter from out there. (indicating through the arbor, off-stage)
The Justice of the Peace stands there. And I will be here.
First the bridal processional. (gesturing as Joy enters through the arbor)
Not so fast.
(pointing towards Ben) Walk over there.
(going over to Ben, taking his hand and leading him to Suzuki, placing his hand in hers) And then you meet here. Now you are in place.
Joy: Everyone sits down. Then we turn and say our poem.
Ben and Joy: Today our hearts join forever. Today our hands become one. Today our separate ways meet. Today our souls come together. Today our lives begin anew. Today our fates intertwine. Today our joy knows no end. Today our love we share with you. Today you grace us here. Today we are blessed. Tomorrow we will not forget. To us you will always be dear.
Suzuki: And then the Justice of the Peace will speak.
(solemnly) "We are gathered here today…"
Ben: (interrupting) I hope it is a short speech.
Suzuki: Not too long. He talks about the institution of marriage. What it means. What you will be promising each other.
Joy: And then there is a legal formality. He says…
(solemnly) "If there is anyone here who has any objection to this wedding taking place…"
Kelly: (enters dressed in his Navy Military Police uniform) I do.
Ben: (at first startled then laughing) Joe Kelly! Nice joke, but you are early for the wedding my friend.
Kelly: (solemnly) I am truly sorry, Ben. I wish it were a joke. But this wedding will not take place today.
Ben: You cannot be serious.
Joy: What are you talking about?
Suzuki: This is nonsense.
Kelly: I am not here as a wedding guest. I am here on official business. The United States of America is at war with Japan. All Japanese are being taken into custody. They will be sent to internment camps. They will remain there until the war is over. This is the order of the United States government. Are you Suzuki Onoshi?
(Suzuki nods her head)
Are you Joy Onoshi?
Joy: (angry) You know who we are.
Kelly: I have been ordered to take you into custody. I must watch you pack your clothes. As soon as you have packed we will leave. I will take you to the Japanese internment camp.
(He takes Joy by the arm and Ben pushes him away)
Ben: (angry) You are not taking anyone anywhere.
Kelly: (drawing his pistol) Ben, I mean it. This is for real. Ben: Joe, we have known each other since we were kids. You cannot mean this. You cannot do this.
Kelly: I am just doing my job, and my duty. I have no choice.
Ben: You know this is not right. You have known Joy and her mother for years. They are not Japanese spies. They are no threat to anyone. You know this.
Kelly: It does not matter what I know. It only matters what I have been ordered to do.
Ben: But they are not Japanese. They are American. Suzuki married an American whose parents were Japanese. She became an American citizen. Joy was born in this country. She is one hundred percent American. Your father was born in Ireland. Your mother was born here. Are you American?
Kelly: We are not at war with Ireland. It is not the same. Anyway, it does not matter. They still have to go.
Ben: What about me?
Kelly: Your father was an American naval officer. You are an American naval officer.
Ben: My mother was born in Japan.
Kelly: I know what my orders are. Joy and her mother are coming with me.
Ben: If you take them, you take me.
(He takes off his coat)
Joy and Suzuki: No.
Kelly: I am not taking you. I am taking them.
Ben: I will resign my commission. I will marry my Joy. We will go together.
Kelly: (putting his pistol away) Listen to me. I have been your friend. I am still your friend. We are at war. The navy will not allow that. They will call you a traitor. They will send you to prison. You would not be with Joy. The war will be over someday. Joy will be released. But you would still be in prison. Is that what you want?
Joy: (alarmed) It is not what I want. My love, you must listen. You are an officer. You must do your duty. They will punish you. I will lose you forever.
Ben: This is our wedding day. We cannot be parted now.
Suzuki: If you love each other you will endure.
(to Joy) We will survive. We will be strong. We will be here when it is over.
(to Ben) You must survive. You must be strong. You must be here when it is over.
(to both) Then our lives can continue.
Ben: I cannot do it. I cannot let you go.
Joy: (taking Ben aside) Our love grows stronger everyday. It will not grow less until we die. What can we do? All we can do is survive. I cannot survive without you. Not even for a single day. My mother and I have no choice. They are going to lock us up. You have a choice. You can let me go and do your duty. Then, someday, we will be together again. Or you can resign and try to come with me. Then we will never see each other again.
(she begins to cry)
Ben: My love for you is stronger than this war. It cannot win. It will not win. What can we do? You are right. All we can do is survive. You must go. And I must do my duty. Someday this war will be over. Then you will come home. Then I will come home. Then we will be together.
Joy and Ben: Until that day our hope is strong. Our love is everlasting. We are one. Now and forever.
Ben: Joy Onoshi, right here before God. Will you have me for your husband? Will you become my wife?
Joy: Before God, yes. Ben: Then we are married.
Joy: (happy, then sad) From now on my name is Sorrow. When we are together again my name will be Joy.
(to Suzuki) We will go and pack. We will go with Joe.
Suzuki: (walking away) (whispering) You must tell him.
Joy: (whispering) No.
Kelly: Sorry, Ben.
(he follows Suzuki and Joy)
(turning back) Report for immediate duty.
(Ben sits down in a chair and covers his face with his hands. Curtain)