If you’ve never attended the opera, there may be no better introduction than this – The Girl of the Golden West. Giacomo Puccini wrote La Fanciulla del West (la fan-CHOO-la del West), which was based on a play by the American author David Belasco. Composed as one of his Italian grand operas, Puccini’s version premiered in 1910 at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, where it immediately achieved popular and critical success. The Indianapolis Opera presents it this evening and Sunday. If you catch a performance, you’ll likely understand why it remains a hit more than a century later.
Set in the American West during the California Gold Rush of 1849, the opera in three acts tells a story of love and frontier justice, hardships and forgiveness performed by ruthless bandits, rough and tumble (but good-hearted) miners Happy, Harry, Handsome and Joe, and a strong-willed saloon owner, Minnie, who holds her own as she holds out for true love – Dick Johnson, the handsome outlaw in disguise. Minnie’s pistol-packin’ role stands apart from the stereotypical put-upon, sad leading ladies of opera. With all the action of a spaghetti western, this one’s wrapped in an Italian score that displays influences from composers Claude Debussy, Igor Stravinsky and Richard Strauss, to name a few.
Whether you’re an opera fan or a first-timer, the Indianapolis Opera’s performance should be a good fit. For more details on this horse opera of an opera, hear from the cast and crew in this video from our partners at WFYI.