Our excellent partners Opera Carolina will be showing a Puccini opera that is rarely staged around here: La Fanciulla del West.

This opera that is notable for its exquisite written-through score and was Puccini’s own favorite is inaugurating an important step for Opera Carolina: its first international cooperation, 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.

Charlotte will have the privilege of counting on world-class major star Marcello Giordani in the leading male role, and acclaimed Italian stage director Ivan Stefanutti. Sets and digital projections were built by Opera Carolina. New costumes are by Atelier Nicolao, Venice, Italy. Maestro Meena conducts.

So, dear readers, we’ve been treated to great productions by Opera Carolina before but this is likely to achieve an even higher level of quality. The “not to be missed” cliché is looking to be very true indeed!

Unfortunately Opera Lively will only be able to attend the third and last run of the show but we will be publishing our review when that time comes. We are working on interviewing the three principal singers (Marcello Giordani as Dick Johnson, Kristin Sampson in the title role, and Aleksey Bogdanov as Jack Rance); stay tuned to this space for the interviews.

Click here for more information and tickets from the company’s web site.

Sunday April 23rd at 2 PM is the first show; the second one is on Thursday April 27th at 7:30 PM, and the run ends on Saturday April 29th at 8 PM, at the Blumenthal Performance Arts Center in Charlotte, NC.

Our title-role Minnie’s singer is Kristin Sampson. Read below her mini-interview with us, she is a very well informed musician, gauging by her answers. Get to know her better by clicking here to consult her website.

Luiz Gazzola for Opera Lively – Please tell us about the psychology of your character. In the original play turned novel, she is shy and cries a lot, and is more passive in the rescue of her beloved. The librettists and Puccini made her much fiercer.

Kristin Sampson – I find this extra level of strength a fantastic addition to her character. While she is soulful, prayerful and loving, she knows how to take care of herself at all times.

OL – How do you compare Minnie with other Puccini heroines?

KS – She is feisty and fiery like a Tosca, passionate and loving like Mimi with a youthful innocence like Butterfly. I love singing her music and making all the many facets of her personality come to life.

OL – Minnie is a difficult role. She stays on stage for a long time, must use lyricism in some parts but also a lot of dramatic soprano power in others. Some of her arias have a wide range such as “Laggiù nel Soledade, ero piccina.” What challenges do you see in singing this role?

KS – My primary challenge would be always maintaining a consistent level of breath support. In the dramatic passages filled with emotion, one can never let the emotion take over and rob the instrument of breath. Anchoring the voice with air and then letting the instrument supply the colors necessary for the drama is the goal. Needless to say, this can be quite a challenge. In my opinion, this task can only be achieved successfully through impeccable breath support and physical commitment to the character.

OL – The score is beautiful but it seems to never have achieved as much popularity as some of the other Puccini operas, in spite of the composer’s fondness for it. What can you say about the music in La Fanciulla del West?

KS – The music from this score is hauntingly beautiful. While it may not have the same level of popularity La bohème has achieved, there are passages that a listener will instantly recognize as composer Andrew Lloyd Weber utilized musical material directly from La Fanciulla del West. I love this music and truly consider it a masterpiece.

OL – This written-through opera uses a lot of recitative and can be seen as a precursor for modern and contemporary operas with not many recognizable arias. You’ve done a lot of contemporary works. Any comments on the position of this opera in the history of music?

KS – As you know, La Fanciulla del West was originally commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera and was deemed a critical success largely due to the fantastic orchestration of the piece. Puccini used modern tonal elements, as well as historical and nostalgic tonal language to help tell the story. By doing so, he set a perfect example of how to blend the two arriving at what many consider his finest masterpiece.

OL – Tell us a little bit about you, please. What made you embrace the operatic profession?

KS – I love the story telling involved with the music making of opera. As I progressed with my career I made it my personal artistic mission to be a vessel for this amazing music. In opera, verismo or bringing truth; being truly present in the moment, and living through the text is what drives my love for the art form.

OL – What are some of your personality traits, and your hobbies and extra-musical interests?

KS – I currently live in New York City and have been there for almost 12 years. I am a detail-oriented person who loves staying busy and multitasking. When I have free time, I enjoy swimming, cooking and spending time with family and friends.

Read the interview on Opera Lively’s website.