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(Puccini: Madama Butterfly). Bar. The US Consul in Nagasaki and friend of Lieut. Pinkerton. The two men meet at Butterfly's house and Sharpless makes it clear to Pinkerton that he considers his happy‐go‐lucky attitude to his forthcoming marriage to the young Butterfly to be irresponsible and unfair. Sharpless points out that the girl clearly loves him and can therefore easily be hurt, but Pinkerton treats the situation lightly. Shortly after their wedding night, he sails for America. Three years later, Butterfly is still confident that he will come back to her as he promised. Sharpless visits her—he has had a letter from Pinkerton in which he explains that he now has an American wife and he has asked the Consul to break this news to Butterfly. As soon as she sees the letter, Butterfly assumes her husband is returning to her and keeps interrupting all attempts to read the letter to her. Sharpless, aware of the upset it will cause, suggests she should marry the wealthy Yamadori. Butterfly now produces the son who was born after his father left for America. The Consul, unable to proceed with his news, promises Butterfly he will write and tell Pinkerton about the child, although he knows it is too late and that Pinkerton is already on his way to Japan. As Butterfly rests in an adjoining room, Sharpless accompanies Pinkerton to the house and they are admitted by her maid, Suzuki. It is Sharpless who explains to Suzuki that they have come to discuss the future care of the child. Butterfly enters the room and Sharpless explains to her that Pinkerton has an American wife, Kate. He asks Butterfly to let the child return with them to America and she agrees on condition that Pinkerton comes himself to collect his son. Sharpless leaves with Kate to pass on this condition to Pinkerton. When the two men return, Butterfly is dying.

Sharpless is a sympathetic person, who has forced upon him all the cruel acts which Pinkerton, in his cowardly way, avoids. Sharpless has to break the bad new to Butterfly, for whom he clearly feels sorry, and he no doubt could see the eventual outcome from the beginning, hence his attempts to dissuade Pinkerton from marrying Butterfly in the first place. Sharpless does not have any great aria to sing, usually appearing in conversational duets or ensembles. However, his Act 2 scene with Butterfly, when he tries to read her her husband's letter, is most moving and there has never been a shortage of baritones willing to undertake this role—in fact, one rarely sees a poor Sharpless on the stage. Well‐known artists in this role have included John Brownlee, Giuseppe Taddei, Tito Gobbi, Rolando Panerai, Hermann Prey, Delme Bryn‐Jones, Ingvar Wixell, and Juan Pons. Created (1904) by Giuseppe De Luca.

Subjects: Opera.

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