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The Girl of the Golden West
(Original Italian title: La fanciulla del west)
An Opera by Giacomo Puccini



Opera in three acts by Puccini; words by C. Zangarini and G. Civini, after the play by David Belasco. Produced, Metropolitan Opera House, New York, December 10, 1910, with Destinn, Mattfeld, Caruso, Amato, Reiss, Didur, Dinh-Gilly, Pini Corsi, and De Segurola.

CHARACTERS


MINNIE…………………………………………… Soprano
JACK RANCE, sheriff……………………………. Baritone
DICK JOHNSON (Ramerrez)…………………… Tenor
NICK, bartender at the "Polka"………………….. Tenor
ASHBY, Wells Fargo agent……………………… Bass
SONORA, a miner……………………. …………Baritone
TRIN, a miner…………………….……………… Tenor
SID, a miner…………………….………………… Baritone
HANDSOME, a miner…………………….……… Baritone
HARRY, a miner…………………….…………… Tenor
JOE, a miner…………………….……………… Tenor
HAPPY, a miner…………………….…………… Baritone
LARKENS, a miner…………………….………… Bass
BILLY JACKRABBIT, an Indian redskin………. Bass
WOWKLE, Billy’s squaw………………………. Mezzo-Soprano
JAKE WALLACE, a travelling camp minstrel… Baritone
JOSE CASTRO, a greaser from Ramerrez’s gang..… Bass
A POSTILLON………………………………….. Tenor
MEN OF THE CAMP

Time: 1849-1850, the days of the gold fever.
Place: A mining camp at the foot of the Cloudy Mountains, California.

Successful in producing "atmosphere" in "La Bohème," "Tosca," and "Madama Butterfly," Puccini has utterly failed in his effort to do so in his "Girl of the Golden West." Based upon an American play, the scene laid in America and given in America for the first time on any stage, the opera has not been, the more’s the pity, a success.





In the first act, laid in the "Polka" bar-room, after a scene of considerable length for the miners (intended, no doubt, to create "atmosphere") there is an episode between Rance and Minnie, in which it develop that Rance wants to marry her, but that she does not care for him. Johnson comes in. He and Minnie have met but once before, but have been strongly attracted to each other. She asks him to visit her in her cabin, where they will be undisturbed by the crowd, which has gone off to hunt for Ramerrez, head of a band of outlaws, reported to be in the vicinity but which soon may be back.

The scene of the
second act is Minnie’s cabin, which consists of a room and loft. After a brief scene for Billy and Wowkle, Minnie comes in. Through night and a blizzard Johnson makes his way up the mountainside. There is a love scene -- then noises outside. People are approaching. Not wishing to be found with Johnson, Minnie forces him to hide. Rance and others, who are on the trail of Ramerrez and hope to catch or kill him any moment, come in to warn her that Johnson is Ramerrez. When they have gone and Johnson acknowledges that he is the outlaw, Minnie denounces him and sends him out into the blizzard. There is a shot. Johnson sorely wounded staggers into the cabin. A knock at the door. Rance’s voice. With Minnie’s aid the wounded man reaches the loft where he collapses.

Rance enters, expecting to find Johnson. He is almost persuaded by Minnie that the fugitive is not there, when, through the loose timbers of the loft, a drop of blood falls on his hand. Minnie proposes that they play cards -- Johnson to live, or she to marry to sheriff. They play. She cheats, and wins.

The
third act is laid in the forest. Johnson, who has recovered and left Minnie’s cabin, is caught, and is to be hung. But at the critical moment Minnie arrives, and her pleading moves the men to spare him, in spite of Rance’s protests. They leave to begin a new life elsewhere.

In the score there is much recitative. It is not interesting in itself, nor is it made so by the insufficiently varied instrumental accompaniment. For the action of the play is too vigorous to find expression by means of the Debussyan manner that predominates in the orchestra. The most genuinely inspired musical number is Johnson’s solo in the last act, when it seems certain that he about to be executed -- "Ch’ella mi creda libero e lontano" (Let her believe that I have gained my freedom).





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