Madame Butterfly is a three-act opera written by Giacomo Puccini. It is based on the short story "Madame Butterfly"that was penned in 1898 by John Luther Long and inspired by stories that his sister, Jennie Correll, had told him about a romance between a U.S. Naval officer and a young Japanese girl. A secondary basis for the opera was an autobiographical novel called "Madame Chrysantheme" that was written by Pierre Loti in 1904. Puccini was driven to write an opera bases on these characters and tales after seeing the London premiere of David Belasco's one-act play "Madame Butterfly: A Tragedy of Japan" in 1900.
Puccini wrote five different versions of the opera, premiering the original two-act version on February 17th, 1904, at Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Italy. Although it was cast with notable, popular performers, the opera was a disaster and very badly received. This was partly Puccini's own fault, as he hadn't completed writing the opera on schedule and rehearsal time was condensed. Puccini undertook a substantial rewrite which produced a three-act version, and when it premiered in Brescia on May 28th, 1904, the reaction could not have been better.
Buoyed by this reaction, Puccini took the opera to Washington D.C. and then to New York where it was performed by Henry Savage's New English Opera Company. Puccini continued to revise the opera and the third, fourth and fifth versions were all performed to great acclaim; however, the fifth version is the best known because it is the version that is performed most often and is the standard and very familiar performed worldwide.