Ciò-Ciò-San (pronounced with cho-
as in choke
) is the heroine of Puccini
's opera Madama Butterfly
. She, the Butterfly
of the title, is the young Japanese
girl who falls in love with the imposing and faithless gaijin
from the American navy, Lieutenant Pinkerton
. (The opera is set in the nineteenth century after Meiji
had opened up Japan to the West.)
She is a fifteen-year-old geisha in Nagasaki when she is introduced to Pinkerton, and has secretly adopted Christianity, so has been rejected by her family.
He sails off and she, with their new baby Sorrow, faithfully awaits his return. When he does, however, three years later, he has a new European wife, Kate. Ciò-Ciò-San tops herself after singing a suitably moving farewell (Piccolo iddio!), using the seppuku dagger that her father had also used. Its inscription is Con onor muore, chi non può servar vita con onore: To die with honour, who can no longer live with honour.