La fanciulla del West is at its heart a love-story. Minnie and Johnson’s destiny is completely changed from the moment they meet, and she risks everything to save his life.
In the mountains of California during the Gold Rush, Minnie, a young woman of sturdy character, runs a bar where miners come to relieve their boredom. Jack Rance, the sheriff wants her. But she does not love him and dreams instead of a great love. Dick Johnson, actually the outlaw Ramerrez, enters. Minnie falls instantly in love with him. The exasperated sheriff leaves the saloon to go find the bandit. Minnie then invites Johnson to meet her that evening.
At her cabin, Minnie welcomes Johnson. They declare their love for one another, before Rance warns Minnie that Johnson and Ramerrez are one and the same. Minnie sends him packing, but he soon returns, wounded. Minnie hides him; Rance shows up and notes the drops of blood. Minnie then suggests a poker game in which she and Johnson are the stakes. She cheats and saves Johnson.
Later, despite everything, Johnson is captured and taken to be hanged. An armed Minnie shows up just in time and reminds the minors of everything she does for them. Grateful but sad, they allow the lovers to set off for a new life.
"The Girl of the West"
Opera in 3 acts
Sung in Italian
About 2 hours 10 min + intervals
A mining camp at the foot of the Cloudy Mountains, California, 1849-1850.
Inside the Polka Saloon
A group of Gold Rush miners enter the "Polka" saloon after a day working at the mine ("Hello! Hello! Alla 'Polka'"). After a song by traveling minstrel Jake Wallace ("Che faranno i vecchi miei"), one of the miners, Jim Larkens, is homesick and the miners collect enough money for his fare home ("Jim, perché piangi?").
A group of miners playing cards discover that Sid is cheating and want to attack him. Sheriff Jack Rance quiets the fight and pins two cards to Sid's jacket, as a sign of a cheat.
A Wells Fargo agent, Ashby, enters and announces that he is chasing the bandit Ramerrez and his gang of Mexicans. Rance toasts Minnie, the woman who owns the saloon, as his future wife, which makes Sonora jealous. 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 ("Hello, Minnie!"). She gives the miners a reading lesson from the Bible ("Dove eravamo?").
The Pony Express rider arrives ("La posta!") and delivers a telegram from Nina Micheltorena, offering to reveal Ramerrez's hideout. The sheriff tells Minnie that he loves her, but Minnie puts him off as she is waiting for the right man ("Ti voglio bene, Minnie").
A stranger enters the saloon and asks for a whisky and water. He introduces himself as Dick Johnson from Sacramento, whom Minnie had met earlier. Johnson invites Minnie to dance with him and she accepts. Angrily, Rance watches them.
Ashby returns with the captured Ramerrez gang member, Castro. Upon seeing his leader, Johnson, in the saloon, Castro agrees to lead Rance, Ashby and the miners in a search for Ramerrez, and the group then follows him on a false trail and in what turns out to be a wild goose chase. But before Castro leaves, he whispers to Johnson that somebody will whistle and Johnson must reply to confirm that the place is clear. A whistle is heard, but Johnson fails to reply.
Minnie shows Johnson the keg of gold that she and the miners take turns to guard at night and Johnson reassures her that the gold will be safe there. Before he leaves the saloon, he promises to visit her at her cabin. They confess their love for each other. Minnie begins to cry, and Johnson comforts her before he leaves.
Minnie's dwelling, later that evening
Wowkle, a Native American woman who is Minnie's servant, her lover Billy Jackrabbit and their baby are present as Minnie enters, wanting to get ready for Johnson's visit. Johnson enters Minnie's cabin and she tells him all about her life. It begins to snow. They kiss and Minnie asks him to stay till morning. He denies knowing Nina Micheltorena. As Johnson hides, a posse enters looking for Ramerrez and reveal to Minnie that Johnson is the bandit Ramerrez himself. Angry, she orders Johnson to leave. After he leaves, Minnie hears a gunshot and she knows Johnson has been shot. Johnson staggers in and collapses, Minnie helps him by hiding him up in the loft. Rance enters Minnie's cabin looking for the bandit and is about to give up searching for Johnson when drops of blood fall on his hand. Rance forces Johnson to climb down. Minnie desperately makes Rance an offer: if she beats him at poker, he must let Johnson 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.
In the Great Californian Forest at dawn, sometime later
Johnson is again on the run from Ashby and the miners. Nick and Rance are discussing Johnson and wonder what Minnie sees in him when Ashby arrives in triumph: Johnson has been captured. Rance and the miners all want Johnson to be hanged. Johnson accepts the sentence and only asks the miners not to tell Minnie about his capture and his fate ("Ch'ella mi creda"). Minnie arrives, armed with a pistol, just before the execution and throws herself in front of Johnson to protect him. While Rance tries to proceed, she convinces the miners that they owe her too much to kill the man she loves, and asks them to forgive him ("Ah! Ah! E Minnie!"). One by one, the miners yield to her plea ("E anche tu lo vorrai, Joe"). Rance is not happy but finally he too gives in. Sonora unties Johnson and sets him free. The miners bid Minnie farewell ("Le tue parole sono di Dio"). Minnie and Johnson leave California to start a new life together.
Minnie – Soprano (spinto)
The owner of The Polka Saloon
Jack Rance – Baritone (dramatic)
Dick Johnson/Ramerrez – Tenor (spinto)
A bandit on the run disguised as Dick Johnson
Nick – Tenor
Bartender at the Polka saloon
Ashby – Bass (basso profondo)
Wells Fargo agent
Sonora – Baritone
Trin – Tenor
Sid – Baritone
Bello - Baritone
Harry - Tenor
Joe – Tenor
Happy – Tenor
Billy Jackrabbit - Bass
A Red Indian married to Wowkle
Wowkle - Mezzo-soprano
Billy Jackrabbit's squaw
Jake Wallace - Baritone (lyric)
A traveling camp minstrel
José Castro - Bass
A mestizo "greaser", from Ramerrez' band
Place of birth: Lucca, Italy
Place of death: Brussels, Belgium
Giacomo Puccini was an Italian Late Romantic opera composer. He came from a musical family with organists and composers in five generations. However, as a child Puccini was neither a keen student or particularly interested in music. That was not sparked until he attended a performance of Verdi’s Aida in Pisa 1876.
His operas are written in the realistic Verismo style, with La bohème, Tosca and Madama Butterfly being his most popular.
Although his operas were hugely praised, on a personal level Puccini was struggling. He was in a near fatal auto accident in his 40s, his love life was full of jealousy and drama and he later died from throat cancer a week after having received experimental radiation treatment in Brussels. At the time of Puccini’s death, he was the most commercially successful opera composer of all time.
“Inspiration is an awakening, a quickening of all man's faculties, and it is manifested in all high artistic achievements.“
He loved motor cars and speedboats. He was good friends with the inventor Thomas Edison.
Most prominent operas
Manon Lescaut 1893
La bohème 1896
Madama Butterfly 1904
La fanciulla del West 1910
La rondine 1917
Il tabarro 1918 (Il trittico)
Suor Angelica 1918 (Il trittico)
Gianni Schicchi 1918 (Il trittico)
The libretto was written by Guelfo Civinini and Carlo Zangarini, based on the 1905 play The Girl of the Golden West by the American author David Belasco. La fanciulla del West followed Madama Butterfly, which was also based on a Belasco play.
Guelfo Civinini was a prolific and versatile Italian librettist, writer and journalist.
Carlo Zangarini was an Italian librettist. As the son of an American mother he was indicated by Tito Ricordi as the ideal librettist for Puccini’s La fanciulla del West (1910), on which he worked with the poet Guelfo Civinini.
3+1, 3+1, 3+1, 3+1 - 4, 3, 3, 1
timp, perc, 2 harps, strings
stage: wind machine, tubular bells, fonica
The opera had a successful and highly publicised premiere at the Metropolitan Opera, New York City, in 1910.
Aria - Che faranno i vecchi miei (Jack Wallace)
Duet – Card Scene (Minnie, Jack Rance)
Aria – Ch’ella mi creda libero e lontano (Johnson)