Puccini’s Peculiar Opera “La Fanciulla del West” at The Met is set in USA

Puccini’s opera about the “Girl of the Golden West” (La Fanciulla del West) is an odd opera to hear sung in Italian with the tenors and sopranos decked out in cowboy duds, but don’t pass up the opportuity to see its 100th Anniversary production when it is telecast live from the Met in New York. One of the more interesting things about it is that Andrew Lloyd Webber cribbed parts of Phantom of the Opera from Puccini’s score. At times you feel like it was Puccini who stole The Lord Andrew’s melodies. Of course it is not so.

La fanciulla del West was commissioned by, and first performed at, the Metropolitan Opera in New York on 10 December 1910 with Met stars Enrico Caruso and Emmy Destinn for whom Puccini created the leading roles of Dick Johnson and Minnie. Also in the cast was Pasquale Amato as Jack Rance. The Met’s music director Arturo Toscanini conducted

After all, Bizet wrote the opera Carmen about bullfighters in Spain, which is almost always sung in its original French. And the epic opera Turandot about the Ice Princess of China is sung in Italian, and yet the music is just as magical even though few Chinese understand Italian either. So why shouldn’t we be both amused and delighted by Puccini’s exaggerated ideas of what the American west was like, it is just opera after all, and operas main selling point is that it is bigger than life. This production will be spectacular, and kick off 2011 with a work by one of opera’s most beloved composers – few match the popularity of Giacomo Puccini.

It has been reported that Giancarlo Del Monaco’s “brilliant staging” (Financial Times) “allows this remarkable score to come through beautifully” (The New York Times). The telecast takes place on Saturday, January 8 at 1 pm with an Encore HD transmission Wednesday, January 26 in select U.S. theaters.

In the Berkshires, the telecasts can be seen at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, the Beacon Cinemas in Pittsfield, and the Clark Art Museum in Williamstown.

There is even a classic "hanging" scene in the Puccini opera. All photos courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera.

Marcello Giordani, left, performing as Ramerrez alongside Deborah Voigt performing as Minnie during the final dress rehearsal of Giacomo Puccini's "La Fanciulla del West", at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Photo: Mary Altaffe.

The Metropolitan Opera’s production of Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West is the company’s 100th anniversary telecast will be transmitted to movie theaters worldwide on Saturday, January 8 at 1 pm ET as part of The Met: Live in HD series. Deborah Voigt will sing the title role of Minnie in Giancarlo Del Monaco’s 1991 production, with Marcello Giordani as Dick Johnson (the disguised bandit Ramerrez) and Lucio Gallo as the villainous sheriff Jack Rance. San Francisco Opera Music Director Nicola Luisotti will conduct the work, which the composer told The New York Times in 1910 he considered “the best of [his] operas.”

The debut of La Fanciulla del West in 1910 was the first-ever world premiere presented by the Met. For the occasion of the centennial performance on December 10, 2010, “dozens of audience members [attended] in fringed Western wear and cowboy hats” (Associated Press).

Set in a mining camp during the California Gold Rush, saloon owner Minnie has her sights set on the mysterious Dick Johnson, and nothing—not horses, hangmen, or a high-stakes poker game—can keep her from finding true love. As Minnie, the Associated Press praised Voigt for “a riveting and moving portrayal” displaying a “shining top that pierced through the sumptuous orchestration…her warm, endearing manner combined with an infectious stage-dominating moxie to make [the role] all her own.” The critic for The New York Times added, “I cannot think of a soprano who could sing any better this demanding role.” As Dick Johnson, Giordani “is at his best here” said the New York Daily News. Under the baton of Luisotti “the score emerged as arguably Puccini’s most subtly written and boldly modern music” (The New York Times).

Met star soprano Sondra Radvanovsky, currently in rehearsals for her Met debut as Tosca in January, is the HD host for La Fanciulla del West. Barbara Willis Sweete directs the transmission and Jay David Saks is music producer.

Last season, The Met: Live in HD series reached an audience of more than 2.4 million people. The fifth season, featuring a record twelve transmissions through May 14, will reach 1500 theaters in 46 countries. New countries joining the network for the first time this season include Egypt, Portugal, and Spain. The Met: Live in HD returns in the following locations: Argentina, Australia, Austria, The Bahamas, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Uruguay.

An encore screening of the January 8 performance will be shown in select theaters in the U.S. on Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 6:30 PM (local time).

La Fanciulla del West will be screened on tape delay in Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, and South Korea, approximately two weeks following the live transmission.

 

Ticket prices vary. More information on tickets and theaters in all participating locations is available at www.metoperafamily.org/hdlive.

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