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Broadcast

Metropolitan Opera Live in HD Transmission: La Fanciulla del West 

Saturday, October 27, 2018, 12:55 P.M. (ET)

Broadcast Fanciulla hdl 1018
The Gold Rush miners at the Polka Saloon in La Fanciulla del West at the Met
© Beth Bergman
The Met: Live in HD series is made possible by a generous grant 
from its founding sponsor, The Neubauer Family Foundation. 
Digital support of The Met: Live in HD is provided by Bloomberg Philanthropies. 
The HD Broadcasts are supported by Toll Brothers, America’s luxury home builder®.

La Fanciulla del West  

Music by GIACOMO PUCCINI 
Libretto by GUELFO CIVININI and CARLO ZANGARINI
after David Belasco’s play The Girl of the Golden West 
THE CAST   
(in order of vocal appearance)
Jake Wallace  bass, OREN GRADUS 
Joe  tenor, SCOTT SCULLY 
Bello  bass, RICHARD BERNSTEIN 
Harry  tenor, ALOK KUMAR 
Nick  tenor, CARLO BOSI 
Happy  bass-baritone, JOSEPH BARRON 
Sid  bass-baritone, JEONGCHEOL CHA 
Sonora  baritone, MICHAEL TODD SIMPSON 
Trin   tenor, EDUARDO VALDES 
Larkens   baritone, ADRIAN TIMPAU 
Jack Rance   baritone, ŽELJKO LUČIĆ 
Ashby   bass, MATTHEW ROSE 
Minnie   soprano, EVA-MARIA WESTBROEK 
Postiglione   tenor, IAN KOZIARA 
Dick Johnson (Ramerrez)  tenor, JONAS KAUFMANN 
José Castro   baritone, KIDON CHOI 
Wowkle   mezzo, MARYANN McCORMICK 
Billy Jackrabbit  bass-baritone, PHILIP COKORINOS 
  
Conducted by MARCO ARMILIATO  
 
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus 
 
Production: Giancarlo del Monaco
Set and costume designer: Michael Scott
Lighting designer: Gil Wechsler 
Stage director: Gregory Keller
Chorus master: Donald Palumbo
Assistant to set and costume designer:  Walter Speer
Musical preparation: Linda Hall, Joshua Greene, Joel Revzen, Milosš Repický
Assistant stage directors: Gina Lapinski,  Elise Sandell
Fight director: B. H. Barry
Prompter: Joshua Greene
Italian coach: Hemdi Kfir 
 
Production a gift of  The Sybil B. Harrington Endowment Fund 
 
Revival a gift of Rolex 
 
Live in HD director: Gary Halvorson
Live in HD host: Susanna Phillips
Music producer: David Frost 
 
This performance will be transmitted live,  
in high definition and surround sound, into selected movie theaters as part of The Met: Live in HD series. For information on tickets,  visit metopera.org/hdlive.  
 

THE STORY 

ACT I. The Polka Saloon fills with boisterous miners, drinking and gambling. The distant voice of Jake Wallace, an itinerant minstrel, is heard approaching. When he enters, the men join him in a nostalgic ballad about the old folks at home. Larkens, who longs to return home, breaks down, and the men take up a collection for him. Ashby, a Wells Fargo agent, arrives to tell Rance that he is about to close in on the bandit Ramerrez and his gang. As the bartender, Nick, serves drinks, courtesy of Minnie, the Polka's owner and camp schoolteacher, Rance solemnly announces that soon she will be his wife. The miner Sonora jealously protests, and the ensuing brawl brings forth Minnie herself, demanding to know what the trouble is. After threatening to close the school if the men do not behave, she reads to them from the Bible. The mail arrives, and the miners retreat with their letters. Rance tells Minnie of his bitter life, empty of love and ruined by cards; he declares his love, saying he would wager everything for her. Minnie says true love is different, recalling the happy childhood she knew in her parents' tavern. A handsome stranger enters, calling himself Dick Johnson. Rance asks him to state his business. Johnson refuses, but Minnie vouches for him, further infuriating the sheriff by dancing with the stranger. Ashby and some miners drag in a suspicious character, Castro, who, pretending to despise his leader, Ramerrez, leads a posse on a false chase. The lovestruck Johnson—actually Ramerrez—is impressed by the woman's devotion to the miners and discards his plan to rob the Polka. Instead, he accepts Minnie's invitation to her cabin and leaves.

ACT II. At the cabin, Minnie's maid, Wow­kle, sings her papoose a lullaby as she and the father, Billy Jackrabbit, discuss getting married—at their mistress's urging. Minnie enters and tells Wowkle there will be a guest for dinner. When Johnson arrives, full of compliments and advances, she begs him to slow down; he makes amends, and she forgives him, telling him of her joy for life. After Wowkle leaves, he takes Minnie in his arms, declaring that he has loved her ever since they first met; she admits to the same feelings. A mounting snowstorm compels Minnie to suggest that Johnson stay the night. Voices are heard calling outside, warning that Ramerrez has been seen near the cabin. Because of the sheriff's jealousy, Minnie hides Johnson before admitting the men. They tell her they fear for her life, because Johnson is actually the notorious Ramerrez. Minnie pretends to make light of it, but as soon as the men leave, she orders her visitor out of hiding. He denies nothing but insists he never would have robbed her. Six months ago, his bandit father died, leaving him no means of support but a band of highwaymen. Touched, she nevertheless sends him away. He goes, but a shot rings out, and his body falls against the door. Minnie helps him inside and pushes him up a ladder to the attic. Rance returns, convinced that Ramerrez is in the cabin. As he searches, a drop of blood from the loft lands on his hand; he orders Ramerrez down. Painfully obeying, the bandit slumps to the floor in a faint. In desperation, Minnie offers to gamble with Rance—a game of poker. If he wins, Minnie and Ramerrez are his; if he loses, Minnie keeps her lover. Furtively, she hides cards under her clothing while Rance shuffles. When he is about to win the game, Minnie pretends to feel faint and asks him to fetch her a drink. She pulls out the winning cards. Stunned, Rance stalks out. 

ACT III. At dawn a week later, Rance regrets his bargain as he waits with a posse at an abandoned site. Soon Ashby and his Wells Fargo men bring in the bandit; everyone is eager to hang him. Ramerrez begs one last favor: Minnie must not know his fate. As the noose is slipped around his neck, Minnie rushes in and throws herself in front of her lover, holding the mob at bay with her gun. She reminds the men of her years of devotion, in return claiming Ramerrez as her own. All the men except Rance are won over. The miners sadly bid farewell as Minnie and Ramerrez leave for a new life.

THE BACKGROUND  

While in New York for the Metropolitan Opera premieres of his Manon Lescaut and Madama Butterfly in the winter of 1907, Puccini attended three plays by impresario David Belasco—Rose of the RanchoThe Music Master and The Girl of the Golden West. Puccini—who at the time was still toying with the idea of an opera based on the life of Marie Antoinette—was initially lukewarm about the opera-house possibilities of Belasco's all-American Girl, despite the spectacular scenic effects that Belasco employed, including an Act II blizzard so fierce that thirty-two stagehands were required to run the wind and snow machines. Before he left New York, Puccini did discuss the possibility of a future collaboration with Belasco, whose stage adaptation of John Luther Long's Madame Butterfly had inspired Puccini's opera. 

After Puccini returned to Europe, his friend Sybil Seligman gave him an Italian translation of the Belasco play, which spurred the composer to commit to the project in the summer of 1907. Puccini's work on La Fanciulla over the next several years was interrupted by domestic scandal—his wife unjustly accused him of a love affair with a servant girl, who later committed suicide—but La Fanciulla del West was eventually completed in August 1910.

La Fanciulla del West was the first world premiere ever given by the Metropolitan Opera. Opening night, on December 10, 1910, was a spectacular gala. With Arturo Toscanini conducting Enrico Caruso (Dick Johnson), Emmy Destinn (Minnie) and Pasquale Amato (Jack Rance) in the leading roles, the Fanciulla premiere was a triumph. The opera left the company repertory after the 1913–14 season and was absent from the Met until 1929, when a new production was mounted for Maria Jeritza. The Met's present production had its premiere on October 10, 1991, with Leonard Slatkin pacing Barbara Daniels, Plácido Domingo and Sherrill Milnes.

WHAT TO READ AND HEAR 

The Best of the currently available Puccini biographies are Mary Jane Philips-Matz's Puccini: A Biography (Northeastern) and Julian Budden's Puccini: His Life and Works (Oxford). The novelization of David Belasco's melodrama, The Girl of the Golden West, is available from 1st World Library—Literary Society.

The most satisfying Minnie on CD?remains the fearless American soprano Eleanor Steber, as captured live at Florence's Maggio Musicale in 1954, with Dimitri Mitropoulos pacing a thrilling performance that also boasts superlative work from Mario Del Monaco (Dick Johnson) and Gian Giacomo Guelfi (Rance). Del Monaco also teams memorably with Renata Tebaldi and Cornell MacNeil, both in splendid voice, on Decca's 1958 studio recording. Plácido Domingo and Sherrill Milnes shine in Zubin Mehta's 1977 recording from Covent Garden (DG), with Carol Neblett its forthright heroine.

On DVD, the Met's Giancarlo del Monaco production is available in a 1992 telecast, with Leonard Slatkin conducting Domingo, Milnes and the admirable Barbara Daniels.  Lucio Gallo is Rance in two recent Fanciullas on DVD: Nikolaus Lehnhoff's 2009 staging for Netherlands Opera (Opus Arte), also starring Eva-Maria Westbroek and Zoltan Todorovich, and a 2005 performance from the Puccini Festival (Arthaus), with the sizzling Daniela Dessì as Minnie. spacer 



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