The Girl of the Golden WestLa Fanciulla del West
Pictures / Videos
Giacomo Puccini (1858 – 1924)
Opera in 3 acts
Libretto by Guelfo Civinini and Carlo Zangarini, adapted from the play of the same name by David Belasco
First performance on 10th December 1910 in New York
Premiered at the Deutsche Oper Berlin on 27th March 2004
In Italian with German and English surtitles
|Set design, Costume design||Klaus Werner Noack|
|Jack Rance||John Lundgren|
|Dick Johnson||Aleksandrs Antonenko|
|Bello / Jake Wallace||Noel Bouley|
|Billy Jackrabbit||N. N.|
|José Castro||Stephen Bronk|
|A Postman||Matthew Newlin|
|Chorus||Chor der Deutschen Oper Berlin|
|Orchestra||Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin|
The story of tavern landlady Minnie, who does not only manage to keep her rough-and-ready customers in check by means of a revolver and prayer sessions in the gold rush era of the Wild West, - she even succeeds in finding happiness with gang leader Dick Johnson in the end, by saving him from the gallows at the last second -, is racy and thrilling, and in Puccini´s musical version, a masterpiece of operatic literature. Apart from Puccini’s last work, the fragment of TURANDOT, LA FANCIULLA DEL WEST is his boldest, perhaps even his most »modern« opera composition.
During the years that followed the successful premiere of MADAME BUTTERFLY , Puccini shared the fate of many other renowned colleagues: he lacked suitable subject material for new works. The search proved difficult and more than once he complained to his publisher, Giulio Ricordi: „I am in urgent need of a new libretto!“
The fact that he, after lengthy deliberations, and in spite of sophisticated literary options chose the gold-digger-play The Girl of the Golden West by Broadway playwright David Belasco is less surprising than it sounds. Belasco had already supplied him with the concept for MADAME BUTTERFLY. Puccini attended a performance of The Girl in 1907, during his presence at the MADAME BUTTERFLY and MANON LESCAUT productions at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and he noted »some quite promising elements.« In the face of the prestigious offer to premiere the new opera at the Metropolitan Opera New York the topic seemed relevant indeed, if only because of the American local colour; but the subject matter also seemed to reflect Puccini’s desire to create his new work in a »stronger, bolder and more drawn-out« manner than the six previous operas, especially compared to LA BOHÈME; – he now sought to transcend its intrinsic lyric sentimentalism by means of a new and far more powerful musical language.
LA FANCIULLA DEL WEST indeed represents a milestone in the artistic development of Puccini. The opera, as it were, designates his transition to a mature dramatist who is open to the musical forms of Modernity, as with Debussy or Strauss; he masterfully integrates these musical forms with his unerring instinct for the theatrical, and yet he always remains true to himself. Puccini experts consider this work his most colorful and most abundant, his most sophisticated score: »Puccini has never been more ardent, more fiery in his usage of material, as in this love story of Minnie, the gallant bandit bride« [Ernst Krause].
Even the minutest psychological impulse finds its musical expression in the orchestra, which in his earlier operas had never before been so extensive: the composer requires 16 woodwind players alone. The music reflects the inner and outer events subtly and to their utmost consequence and does not shy away from harmonic severities and unresolved dissonances. Numerous chromatic and full tone passages, the uncompromising usage of interpretive designations, such as »rough«, »hard«, or »brutal«, a distinctive rhythmic structure, as well as a close linking of musical motives characterize an environment of destitution and brutality, in which a woman like Minnie succeeds in finding personal happiness, against all odds. The audience dives into a fascinating world that makes the listener hold his or her breath until the very last bar. This initially atypical-seeming »gold-digger«work of Puccini that for this very reason is even more emphatically forward-looking, is indeed a breathtaking venture.