The Girl of the West

A bona fide Western

  • Sunday, April 23rd - 2:00 pm
  • Thursday, April 27th - 7:30 pm
  • Saturday, April 29th - 8:00 pm
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The Girl of the West / La fanciulla del West

Can opera – a centuries-old Italian art form be an effective medium for a Western – that quintessentially American and (relatively) new genre? Puccini thought so.

Opera Carolina’s new production of The Girl of the West (La fanciulla del West) is our first international collaboration with the Teatro di Giglio in Puccini’s hometown of Lucca, Italy, the Teatro Lirico in Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia, and the New York City Opera.

New production design by acclaimed Italian director Ivan Stefanutti. Sets and digital projections built by Opera Carolina. New costumes by Atelier Nicolao, Venice, Italy.

Act I

The Action takes place at the foothills of Sierras during the 1840’s California Gold Rush.

ACT I Inside the Polka Saloon - just after dark. A group of miners enter the “Polka” saloon after days of mining for gold. The camp minstrel, Jake Wallace, sings a sentimental tune about home. This prompts one of the miners, Jim Larkens, to beg his friends to help him get home. The miners collect enough money for his fare home. A group playing cards discovers that Sid is cheating and about to hang him when the Sheriff, Jack Rance, stops the fight. He pins a card on Sid’s jacket as a sign of a cheater. Ashby, a Wells Fargo agent enters and announces that he and his posse are close to capturing the bandit Ramerrez and his gang. He tells Rance that he is meeting Ramerrez’s jilted lover, Nina Micheltoreňa later. “Hell hath no fury, and she’s ready to give him up.”

Rance toasts Minnie, the Girl of the West who he wants to be his wife. A jealous Sonora tells him Minnie is just playing around with him, and the two men begin to fight. Just then, a shot rings out and Minnie stands next to the bar with a rifle in her hands. After calming things down, she gives the miners their weekly reading lesson from the Bible. After the lesson, Rance tells Minnie he wants her to be his and that he’ll take care of her. Minnie puts him off telling him she wants what her parents had - true love. A stranger enters the Polka. He introduces himself as Dick Johnson from Sacramento. He is in fact, the outlaw Ramerrez, and has come to the Polka to steal the miner’s gold. He and Minnie had met months ago on the road from Monterrey, and fell into an unspoken love for each other. At this chance meeting, he invites Minnie to dance while Rance watches them, jealously.

Ashby and his men burst in with Jose Castro, a member of Ramerrez’s gang. Unkown to Ashby, Castro’s capture is part of the plan to rob the Polka. When Castro sees his disguised leader in the saloon, he feigns betrayal to Ramerrez and agrees to lead Rance in a search his hideout. Before Castro leaves, he whispers to Ramerrez that somebody will whistle to confirm that the place is clear, and he should confirm with his own signal. The miners join the possee and follow Castro in what turns out to be a wild goose chase. When the signal is given, Ramerrez fails to reply, as his attentions are now only fixed on Minnie. He reassures her that the gold will be safe. Before he leaves the saloon, she invites him to her cabin that night. As the bond between them grows, he tells her she has the face of an angel.


Act II

ACT II Minnie’s cabin - late evening. Wowkle, Minnie’s Indian servant and her husband to be Billy Jackrabbit are in the house with their new baby, as Minnie comes home and announces that dinner will be for two tonight. “Johnson” arrives and the two continue their deep conversation from earlier. They kiss and Minnie suggests he can stay till morning. The posse approaches the house and Johnson hides. Rand tells Minnie that Johnson is really the bandit Ramerrez. When the men leave Minnie orders Ramerrez to get out. When she hears a gunshot outside her cabin, she knows he has been shot. Ramerrez staggers in and Minnie helps him by hiding him up in the loft. Rance enters, sure that Ramerrez entered the cabin. Minnie denies he is there, and when Rance is about to give up searching he sees drops of blood fall from the loft. He forces Ramerrez to climb down. Before he can take him to Ashby and the possee, Minnie makes Rance a depserate offer: If she beats him at poker, he will let Ramerrez go free. If Rance wins, she will marry him. Hiding some cards, Minnie cheats and wins. Rance honors the deal and Minnie throws herself on the unconscious Johnson on the floor.

Act III

ACT III In the Great Californian Forest at dawn - six weeks later. Ramerrez has been nursed back to health by Minnie. They have agreed he will leave and start a new, honest life, and that she will join him. But, he finds himself once again on the run from Ashby who arrives in triumph. Ramerrez has been captured. Rance and the miners all want him to be hanged. Ramerrez accepts his sentence and only asks the miners not to tell Minnie about his fate. Before they can hang him, Minnie arrives, armed with a pistol. She throws herself in front of Ramerrez to protect him, and convinces the miners that they owe her too much to kill the man she loves. She asks them to free him. One by one the miners yield. Even Rance finally gives in. The miners say farewell to Minnie as she and Ramerrez leave California to start a new life together.