Music with Ease > 19th Century Italian Opera > The Girl of the Golden West - Puccini
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.
JACK RANCE, sheriff
DICK JOHNSON (Ramerrez)
NICK, bartender at the "Polka"
ASHBY, Wells Fargo agent
SONORA, a miner
TRIN, a miner
SID, a miner
HANDSOME, a miner
HARRY, a miner
JOE, a miner
HAPPY, a miner
LARKENS, a miner
BILLY JACKRABBIT, an Indian redskin
WOWKLE, Billys squaw
JAKE WALLACE, a travelling camp minstrel
JOSE CASTRO, a greaser from Ramerrezs gang..
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 mores 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 Minnies 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. Rances voice. With Minnies 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 Minnies 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 Rances 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 Johnsons solo in the last act, when it seems certain that he about to be executed -- "Chella mi creda libero e lontano" (Let her believe that I have gained my freedom).