Cio-Cio-San, the young Japanese bride of dashing American officer Lieutenant Pinkerton, finds her romantic idyll shattered when he deserts her shortly after their marriage. She lives in hope that one day he will return.
Three years later, Cio-Cio-San and her little son see Pinkerton’s ship in the harbour. She excitedly expects his visit – but Pinkerton and his American wife Kate have come only to take the boy away, to raise him in America. Cio-Cio-San bids her son farewell and then takes her own life.