“There’s a path to redemption for every one of you boys.”
Minnie, the indomitable heroine of La Fanciulla del West, can hold her own with the boys at her saloon. She loves her solitary life in the mountains, but she loves her man more. Yes, you’ve met her before: First imagined by David Belasco, a giant of the American theater, she set the pattern for women characters in scores of Westerns. But on the opera stage, her authenticity will astonish you. Puccini deemed La Fanciulla del West his best opera; critics call it his most “perfectly crafted score.” The harsh realities of the California Gold Rush and its gritty characters have never been more honestly portrayed in drama. Distinguished American soprano Patricia Racette (The Letter, 2009) makes her role debut as Minnie, who will do just about anything to get her man — the outlaw Dick Johnson, portrayed by Gwyn Hughes Jones (La Bohème, 2007). But that leads to a tense, climactic face-off with his competition, the shady sheriff Jack Rance, sung by Mark Delavan (Arabella, 2012). Staged by British Theatre and opera director Richard Jones in his company debut, and co-produced with the English National Opera, this production won the 2015 Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Opera. Emmanuel Villaume (The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein, 2013) conducts.
Music Giacomo Puccini
Text Guello Civinini and Carlo Zangarini
after David Belasco’s play The Girl of the Golden West
Sung in Italian with a SimulText® screen offering instantaneous English or Spanish translation
A miner’s camp on Cloudy Mountain
The Polka saloon, evening
Miners gather in the saloon where they are greeted by Nick, the bartender. Happy, Harry, Handsome, Trin and Joe gamble, with Sid as banker. Jake Wallace sings a nostalgic song, which provokes Larkens to break down with homesickness. Some contribute money for Larkens’s return home. Sid is caught cheating and the miners threaten him with hanging. Sheriff Rance intervenes and pins a two of spades to his lapel as a mark of shame before towing him out of the saloon.
The Wells Fargo agent Ashby arrives with news that the bandit Ramerrez is at large. Rance and Sonora quarrel over Minnie. Her arrival restores order. The miners give her gifts. Minnie leads a bible-class. The post arrives and Ashby receives information about Ramerrez. Rance finds himself alone with Minnie and declares his desire for her.
Nick returns with a man called Dick Johnson. He has met Minnie before, and their attraction angers Rance. Ashby and a group of men drag in José Castro, one of Remerrez’s gang. He pretends to have deserted his boss and promises to lead them to him. Castro’s intention is to distract the miners long enough for Ramerrez to rob the saloon where the miners keep their gold. He whispers to Ramerrez, alias Johnson, that he will give a signal when it is safe for Ramerrez to commit robbery. The miners prepare to ride off with Castro, leaving Minnie to guard their gold. Johnson is alone with Minnie. He ignores Castro’s signal, and accepts Minnie’s invitation to meet later at her cabin.
Minnie’s cabin, later that evening
Billie Jackrabbit visits Wowkie at Minnie’s cabin. Minnie arrives to prepare for Johnson’s visit. She describes her life on the mountain to Johnson. As they become more intimate, Johnson inexplicably announces that he must leave. It is snowing heavily outside. Minnie insists that he stay the night, though they will sleep separately.
Rance and a small posse of men knock on the door. They are searching for Ramerrez. Johnson hides. Rance provides proof of Johnson’s criminal identity. The men leave. Minnie rounds on Johnson: he attempts to explain his life. Minnie orders him to go.
As soon as he leaves, shots ring out and Johnson’s body slumps against the door. Minnie opens the door, he staggers in and she hides him. Rance returns. A trail of blood eventually leads him to Johnson. In a desperate ploy, Minnie challenges Rance to a game of poker: if she wins, Johnson will go free; if she loses, she will give herself to Rance. By cheating in the final hand, she wins.
Rance despairs at having let Ramerrez go free. Distant voices draw nearer: Ramerrez has been caught and is brought in to face the accusing mob. Billy Jackrabbit prepares the noose. Ramerrez asks that Minnie will never be told of his execution. Minnie arrives and pleads with the miners to spare his life. They accept. Minne and Johnson depart from California.
- Nick - John Fryatt
- Joe - Darren Keith Woods
- Handsome - Matthew Jones
- Harry - Michael W. Nicholson
- Happy - Adam Montgomery Harris
- Sid - Charles R. Austin
- Sonora - Patryk Wroblewski
- Trin - Jay Hunter Morris
- Larkens - John Kuether
- Jack Rance - Timothy Noble
- Jake Wallace - Herbert Perry
- Ashby - Kevin Langan
- Minnie - Mary Jane Johnson
- A Courier - Kenn Chester
- Dick Johnson - Craig Sirianni
- Jose Castro - Clifton Romig
- Wowkle - Leneida Crawford
- Billy Jackrabbit - Gimi Beni
- Conductor - Richard Buckley
- Director - Bruce Donnell
- Scenic Designer - John Conklin
- Costume Designer - Lewis Brown
- Lighting Designer - Craig Miller
- Choreographer - Rodney Griffen
- Chorus Master - Gary Wedow