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

Inside the Polka Saloon

A group of miners enter the "Polka" saloon after a day work. One of the miners, Larkens, is homesick and the miners collect enough money for his fare home. A group playing cards discover that Sid is cheating and go after him. Sheriff Jack Rance stops the fight and pins two cards to Sid's jacket, as a sign of a cheater. Ashby, a Wells Fargo agent enters and announces that he and his posse have been tracking the bandit Ramerrez and his gang. He tells the sheriff that he’s meeting with Ramerrez's jilted lover, Nina Micheltoreňa. “Hell hath no fury, and she’s ready to give him up.”

Rance toasts Minnie, the Girl who owns the saloon, who he wants to be his wife. This makes Sonora jealous and the two men begin to fight. Rance draws his revolver but at that moment, a shot rings out and Minnie stands next to the bar with a rifle in her hands. After calming things down, Minnie gives the miners their weekly reading lesson from the Bible. Rance tells Minnie that he loves her, but Minnie puts him off -- she is waiting for the right man. A stranger enters the saloon and orders a whisky. He introduces himself as Dick Johnson from Sacramento, whom Minnie had met earlier. He is, in fact, the outlaw Ramerrez, and he has come to the Polka to steal the miner’s gold. He invites Minnie to dance with him and she accepts. Rance watches them, jealously.

Ashby returns with Jose Castro, a captured Ramerrez gang member. Unkown to Ashby, Castro’s capture is part of their plan to rob the Polka of the gold the miners keep hidden in the saloon’s barrels. When Castro sees his leader in the saloon, he agrees to lead Rance in a search for Ramirez. 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 whistle. The group follows him 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.

Minnie shows him the keg of gold that she and the miners take turns guarding at night. He reassures her that the gold will be safe. Before he leaves the saloon, he promises to visit her at her cabin, telling her she has the face of an angel. Minnie begins to cry, and “Johnson” comforts her before he leaves.

Act II

Minnie's cabin, later that evening

Wowkle, Minnie’s Native American servant and her lover Billy Jackrabbit are in the house with their baby as Minnie comes home from the Polka. “Johnson” arrives Minnie's and she tells him all about her life. They kiss and Minnie asks him to stay till morning. A posse looking for Ramerrez approaches the house. “Johnson” hides. The posse reveals to Minnie that Johnson is the bandit Ramerrez himself. When they leave, she orders Ramerrez to leave, which he does. Minnie hears a gunshot and she knows he has been shot. Ramerrez staggers in and Minnie helps him by hiding him up in the loft. The Sherrif Rance enters the cabin looking for the bandit, and is about to give up searching when drops of blood fall on his hand. Rance forces Ramerrez to climb down. Minnie desperately makes Rance an offer: if she beats him at poker, he must let Ramerrez go free. If Rance wins, she will marry him. Hiding some cards in her stockings, Minnie cheats and wins. Rance honors the deal and Minnie throws herself on the unconscious Johnson on the floor.

Act III

In the Great Californian Forest at dawn

Ramerrez is again on the run from Ashby and the miners. Nick and Rance wonder what Minnie sees in him, when Ashby arrives in triumph: Ramerrez has been captured. Rance and the miners all want him to be hanged. Ramerrez accepts the sentence and only asks the miners not to tell Minnie about his capture and his fate. Minnie arrives, armed with a pistol, just before the execution and throws herself in front of Ramerrez to protect him. She convinces the miners that they owe her too much to kill the man she loves, and asks them to free him. One by one the miners yield. Rance is not happy but finally gives in. The miners say farewell to Minnie as she and Johnson leave California to start a new life together.