The Girl of the Golden West | Lyric Opera House | Classical | Chicago Reader

The Girl of the Golden West Recommended Soundboard

When: Sat., Jan. 22, 7:30 p.m., Wed., Jan. 26, 2 p.m., Sat., Jan. 29, 2 p.m., Fri., Feb. 4, 7:30 p.m., Wed., Feb. 9, 7:30 p.m., Sat., Feb. 12, 7:30 p.m., Tue., Feb. 15, 7:30 p.m., Fri., Feb. 18, 2 p.m. and Mon., Feb. 21, 7:30 p.m. 2011

Puccini's La Fanciulla del West ("The Girl of the Golden West") opened in 1910 to great success, but it never matched the popularity of its three predecessors, La Boheme, Tosca, and Madama Butterfly. Perhaps audiences wanted their Puccini filled with the showstopping arias they'd come to love—such moments are virtually absent in La Fanciulla, where the vocal parts are more thoroughly integrated into the impressively orchestrated score, with its flavors of Debussy and Strauss. Set in California during the gold rush of the mid-19th century, La Fanciulla tells the story of Minnie, a saloon owner and gunslinging romantic who's waiting for the right man to come along—the role's a great fit for soprano Deborah Voigt, though a few of her high notes sounded a bit strident on opening night. All the locals pine for her, particularly the hotheaded sheriff, Jack Rance (baritone Marco Vratogna). But she's interested in Dick Johnson, aka the outlaw Ramerrez (tenor Marcello Giordani), who is ultimately transformed by her love. The only thing missing was at least one of the many horses Puccini insisted upon for La Fanciulla's world premiere at the Metropolitan Opera. At the end, Minnie charges in, her pistol blazing, to save her man—riding a railroad handcar. When the lovers walk off together singing "Addio," the production feels one horse short of the first spaghetti western. Andrew Davis conducts. See also Wednesday; the final performance is February 21.

Barbara Yaross

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