La Fanciulla del West goes global

8 01 2011

This afternoon, live from the Metropolitan Opera, the final performance of Puccini’s wild west opera La Fanciulla del West will be broadcast all over the world. Based on the popular play The Girl of the Golden West by “Bishop of Broadway” David Belasco, it was a huge hit when it premiered in New York in 1910.

I’m going see it live in HD at the Galaxy cinema in Waterloo. (I had no idea that operas are being shown in theatres!)Saturday Afternoon at the Opera’s Matthew Baird’s post about the production, which began its New York run December 6, is one of many good articles that makes it unnecessary to write much more about it here. I’ll put up pictures (some from the Met’s web site) of the original and other versions of the show, including the one that will be on this afternoon, starring the incredible Deborah Voigt as Minnie.

Below, Minnie defends her beloved in the closing scene from the world premiere of La Fanciulla del West at the Met on Dec. 10, 1910.

Enrico Caruso sang the role of bandit Dick Johnson.

The card scene from the 1910 world premiere. Emmy Destinn as Minnie wagers high stakes against Pasquale Amato as Sheriff Jack Rance. If she wins, her lover’s life is saved, otherwise, she must submit to the persistant sheriff. She cheats to win, and gets away with it.

With the exception of the title role and the secondary character of Wowkle, the 1910 production of Fanciulla had an all-male ensemble and chorus, as does the current version. These are some of the California gold miners in Act I.

Minnie admonishes the men for not sparing Johnson after all she’s done for them. From the 1961 production with Richard Tucker, Leontyne Price, and Anselmo Colzani as Jack Rance.

Diva-as-cowgirl Dorothy Kirsten sang Minnie (who felt her “thirty dollar education” made her unworthy of outlaw Dick Johnson) in several performances of Fanciulla in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Barbara Daniels belts it out on the bar at the Polka saloon with Sherrill Milnes as Jack in the 1991 premiere of the current Giancarlo Del Monaco production. There’s no Puccini “hits” in the show, but the score is said to be one of his best.

The 1991 show also featured a badass Plácido Domingo as Dick Johnson. Dick was a self-professed thief, and lied to the vulnerable Minnie about his past. The jealous Rance accused him of murder in order to have him hanged, to punish Minnie for rejecting him.

The Met’s website has photos, video and more, including this short interview with Deb Voigt about playing Minnie, where she concludes,

“It is really rewarding to sing an opera in which I actually get my man at the end of the evening — alive, no less”

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