La fanciulla del West


La fanciulla del West

"La fanciulla del West" ("The Girl of the Golden West") is an opera in three acts by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Guelfo Civinini and Carlo Zangarini, based on the play "The Girl of the Golden West" by David Belasco.

After the success of his opera "Madama Butterfly", Puccini returned to the source of its inspiration, David Belasco. Belasco, playwright for "Madame Butterfly" had also written "The Girl of the Golden West", and Puccini selected that drama for his next opera.

Performance history

It was first performed on 10 December 1910 in New York City at the Metropolitan Opera House with Emmy Destinn as Minnie, Enrico Caruso as Dick Johnson and Pasquale Amato as Jack Rance; Arturo Toscanini conducted the premiere.

This opera was the first world premiere for the Metropolitan Opera House, and was a huge success in the United States. Despite that, it was never as popular in Europe, except, perhaps, in Germany where it enjoyed a triumphant premiere in March 1913 at the Deutsche Opernhaus in Berlin (now known as the Deutsche Oper), under the musical direction of Ignatz Waghalter. It has fewer of the "showstopping" highlights that are characteristic of other Puccini operas, but is admired for being far better integrated than his earlier work. It shows the obvious influence of (but by no means any imitation of) Debussy, and is Puccini's only venture into impressionism. It is still sometimes performed, but not as often as Puccini's other mature operas.

Roles

ynopsis

:Time:1849 to 1850.:Place: A mining camp in the high Sierra Madre Mountains in California.

Act 1

"Inside the Polka Saloon"

At the saloon, Sheriff Rance is playing solitaire, while the barman is lighting the lamps. The group of miners enter the saloon, taking a break after a day working at the mine. Sid proposes that the miners play cards, while Nick suggests the men dance. However, Sonora refuses; he prefers to sit at the bar to be close to Minnie. One of the miners, Jim Larkens, is homesick and the miners collect enough money for his fare home. A group of miners are playing cards when Bello discovers that Sid is cheating. Sheriff Rance quiets the fight and pins the two spades to Sid's jacket. Then the miners chase him out of the saloon. A Wells Fargo agent, Ashby, enters and announces that he is chasing the bandit Ramirez and his gang of Mexicans; he shows Rance the warrant for the arrest of Ramirez.

Nick announces a round of drinks for Minnie. Sheriff Rance toasts Minnie as his future wife, which makes Sonora angry. He tells Rance that Minnie is only toying with him. The two men begin to fight. Rance draws his revolver but at that moment, shots blast out and Minie stands next to the bar with a rifle in her hands. The Pony Express rider arrives and delivers a telegram from Nina Micheltorena, offering to reveal Ramirez’s hideout.

The sheriff tells Minnie that he loves her and will give her $1,000 for a kiss. He also says he wants to marry her after giving up his wife. Minnie laughs at him (Rance, Minnie: "Ti voglio bene, Minnie" ).

Rance tells Minnie that he has never loved anyone because he is a gambler; only gold fascinates him. But he is now offering Minnie a fortune if she kisses him (Rance, Minnie: "Minnie, dalla mia casa son partito" ). But Minnie is waiting for a man she can love unconditionally although Rance suggests that the man is him (Rance, Minnie: "Laggiù nel Soledad" ).

A stranger enters the saloon and asks for a whisky and water. He introduces himself as Dick Johnson from Sacramento. Minnie and Johnson sing about their first meeting, while Rance jealously watches them (Johnson, Rance, Minnie: "Chi c’e per farmi I ricci?" ). Rance deliberately knocks over Johnson’s saddle to provoke him, but Minnie defuses the situation. Johnson invites Minnie to dance with him and she accepts. Angrilly, Rance watches them.

Ashby returns with the captured Ramirez gang member, Castro. Upon seeing his leader, Johnson, in the saloon, Castro agrees to lead Rance, Ashby and the miners in a search for Ramirez, and the group then follows him on a false trail and in what turns out to be a wild goose chase. But before Castro leaves, he whispers a plan to Johnson: somebody will whistle and Johnson must reply to confirm that the place is clear.

While Minnie is busy on the upper floor, Johnson looks around the saloon for the gold and finds it under the counter. Minnie returns and asks him if he can help her to keep watch. She is confident that the gold is safe in her care. Nicks enters and warns that a Mexican has been seen around. A whistle is heard, but Johnson fails to reply. Minnie shows Johnson the keg of gold which she and the miners take turns to guard at night and Johnson reassures her that the gold will be safe there. Before he leaves the saloon, he promises to visit her at her cabin. They confess their love for each other (Minnie, Johnson, Nick: "Mister Johnson, siete rimasto indietro" ). Minnie begins to cry, Johnson comforts her before he leaves.

Act 2

"Minnie’s log cabin, later that evening"

Johnson enters Minnie's cabin and she tells him all about her life. She gives him a kiss and asks him to stay till morning. Then she asks Johnson if he came to the dance looking for Nina Micheltorena. He changes the subject. Overwhelmed with guilt over his secret identity, Johnson tries to leave, but is prevented from doing so by heavy snow outside. Suddenly, they hear three gun shots. Johnson says he loves Minnie and will stay with her forever, swearing that he has never known Nina Micheltorena (Minnie, Johnson: "Ugh! Neve! – Va’! Riposati sul fieno" ).

They hear shouting outside: the bandit trails lead to Minnie’s cabin, but before the sheriff and his men enter, Minnie hides Johnson knowing of Sheriff Rance’s jealousy. She is shocked to learn that Johnson is Ramerrez, Nina Micheltorena having revealed this to the Sherrif. At first, Minnie does not believe them until they show her Ramerrez's photo given to them by Nina (Nick, Johnson, Minnie, Sonora, Ashby, Rance : "Hello! - Chiamano" ).

After the men leave, she confronts Johnson saying that he came to the Polka saloon to steal the gold. Johnson tries to defend himself (Minnie, Johnson: "Vieni fouri!" ). He swears that he would not want to steal anything from Minnie or from the miners and that he has fallen in love with Minnie ever since their first meeting; all he wants is to make a new start with Minnie but admits that he lied to her about Nina. Minnie asks him to leave her cabin (Johnson, Minnie: "Lo so, lo so! Ma non vi avrei rubato!" ).

After leaving, Minnie hears a gunshot and she knows Johnson has been shot. She refrains from helping him, but when Johnson staggers in and collapses, Minnie helps him by hiding him in the loft. She tells him that she loves him and will save him (Minnie, Johnson: "L’han ferito .. Che importa?" ).

Sheriff Rance enters Minnie's cabin looking for the bandit. He is about to give up searching for Johnson when he discovers a drop of blood on the floor. Rance pulls down the ladder and forces Johnson to climb down. Minnie tries to stop Rance, but Rance gives Johnson two options: be hanged or be shot. Minnie cries “Wait!” (Minnie, Rance: "Che c’e di nuovo, Jack?" ).

Minnie desperately makes Rance an offer. If she beats him at poker, he must let Johnson go free. If he wins, she will be his. Hiding some cards in her stockings, Minnie cheats and she wins. Rance honors the deal and Minnie throws herself on the unconscious Johnson on the floor (Minnie, Rance: "Una partita a poker!" ).

Act 3

"Near the Californian forest at dawn, sometime later"

Time has passed, and Johnson has recovered from his wounds. But he is still on the run from Ashby and the miners. Nick and Rance are discussing Johnson and wonder what Minnie sees in him when Ashby arrives in the town in triumph: Johnson has been captured. Rance is delighted to see this and he wants revenge; the miners all want Johnson to be hanged. (Chorus, Ashby, Rance, Nick, Miners: "Ah! Ah! Hurray, ragazzi!" ). While Billy Jackrabbit prepares the rope to hang Johnson, Nick bribes him with some gold and tells him to delay the execution. He rushes off to find Minnie.

Ashby turns Johnson over to Rance and his hands are tied. The men want to hang Johnson as a thief and a murderer and, although he denies ever having killed anyone, he does admit to stealing although not from Minnie. The men do not believe him (Ashby, miners, chorus, Rance, Johnson: "Scerriffo Rance! Consegno a voi quest’uomo" ). Johnson accepts the sentence and only asks the miners not to tell Minnie about his capture and his fate (Johnson, Rance, miners, chorus: "Risparmiate lo scherno" ).

Johnson wishes Minnie to be told that he has gone far away to a new life of redemption and never to return (Johnson, Rance, chorus: "Ch'ella mì creda libero" ). The miners get ready to hang Johnson.

Minnie arrives just before the execution and throws herself in front of Johnson to protect him. As she prepares to shoot, the miners try to take her gun by force. Sonora calms the situation (Minnie, miners, chorus, Rance: "Ah! Ah! – E Minnie" ).

While Rance tries to proceed, she convinces the miners that they owe her too much to kill the man she loves. She asks them to forgive him. One by one, the miners yield to her plea. Rance is not happy but finally he too gives in. Sonora unties Johnson and set him free (Minnie, Sonora, chorus, miners: "Non vi fu mai chi disse ‘Basta!’" ).

The miners bid Minnie farewell. Minnie and Johnson leave California to start a new life together (Sonora, Johnson, Minnie, chorus, miners: "Le tue parole sono di Dio" ).

elected recordings

Note: "Cat:" is short for catalogue number by the label company

Film adaptations

*"The Girl of the Golden West" (1915), directed by Cecil B. DeMille, featuring Mabel Van Buren, Theodore Roberts and House Peters
*"The Girl of the Golden West" (1923), directed by Edwin Carewe and starring Sylvia Breamer, J. Warren Kerrigan and Russell Simpson
*"The Girl of the Golden West" (1930), a lost film directed by John Francis Dillon, with Ann Harding, James Rennie and Harry Bannister
*"The Girl of the Golden West" (1938), directed by Robert Z. Leonard, starring Jeanette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy and Walter Pidgeon

Other influences

Listeners of the opera might perceive that it bears some resemblance to Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1986 musical "The Phantom of the Opera". An example of this is shown in Webber's aria for the Phantom, "Music of the Night". A segment of it appears to be taken right from Johnson's "Quello che tacete", which is located near the end of the first act of "Fanciulla". However, it has never been proved whether Lloyd Webber looked to "The Girl of the Golden West" for ideas.

References


*cite book | author=Hamilton, David, ed.| title=The Metropolitan Opera Encyclopedia| location=New York | publisher=Simon & Schuster| year=1987 | id=ISBN 067161732X

External links

*gutenberg|name=The Girl of the Golden West" by David Belasco|no=16551
* [http://www.classicistranieri.com/dblog/articolo.asp?articolo=6000 Creative Commons MP3 Recording] (Italian)
* [http://www.karadar.it/Librettos/puccini_fanciulla.html Libretto]
* [http://www.gresham.ac.uk/event.asp?PageId=45&EventId=570 'Puccini and New York'] , lecture by Professor Roger Parker on the opera, given at Gresham College on 11th June 2007 (with video and audio files available for download).


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