La Fanciulla del West, opera in three acts, sung in Italian
Music by Giacomo Puccini
Libretto by G. Civinini and C. Zangarini, after the play The Girl of the Golden West by David Belasco
Premiere at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City on December 10, 1910
This review is of the third and last run of this show at Opera Carolina in Charlotte, NC, USA on 4/29/17. This is a new co-production; this show will travel next to New York City Opera, then a string of cities in Italy. Unfortunately Opera Lively could only review this excellent show on the occasion of its last run in Charlotte but catching it in one of the partner companies is highly recommended.
The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra conducted by James Meena
The Men of the Opera Carolina Chorus
Production Designer and Stage Director – Ivan Stefanutti
Lighting and Video Design – Michael Baumgarten
Costumes – Atelier Nicolao; Stefano Nicolao, director – Venice, Italy
Minnie, title role, owner of the Polka Saloon – Opera Lively interviewee Kristen Sampson
Dick Johnson (Ramerrez), a bandit – Opera Lively interviewee Marcello Giordani
Jack Rance, sheriff – Opera Lively interviewee Aleksey Bogdanov
Other important singing roles
Sonora, a miner – Giovanni Guagliardo
Nick, barkeep at the Polka – Gianluca Bocchino
Ashby, agent of the Wells Fargo Corporation – Jason McKinney
Jake Wallace, the Camp Minstrel – Jeff McEvoy
Billy Jackrabbit – Opera Lively interviewee (in a past production) Donald Hartmann
Wowkle – Anna Harreveld
José Castro – Carl DuPont
(and several miners)
Opera Lively has been covering all the shows in Charlotte by Opera Carolina for several seasons, and the quality has been very high in most performances. From time to time, the company goes above and beyond its customary high standards, and produces something truly memorable. This was one such occasion: one of their best efforts, ever.
Starting with the trio of principal singers: very rarely one can listen to such a good cast, in a regional opera company, anywhere. World-class tenor Marcello Giordani was every bit as good as expected for someone with his prestigious career. His pitch control, phrasing, volume, and diction were near perfect. In spite of the singer’s age – 54 – no signs of wear and tear whatsoever were present. Mr. Giordani is likely to be able to sing for several more years, given that his voice still sounds very fresh.
Ms. Kristen Sampson had enormous stamina during this long role with wide range without any fatigue by the end of the last act, and was able to deliver dramatic soprano singing with power and good colors. Aleksey Bogdanov matched his two colleagues, being just as excellent.
These three very strong singers were able to pierce through the rather loud score that Puccini composed for this opera, and their voices filled the large Belk Theater with no trouble.
Maestro Meena and the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra were in great form tonight. My favorite element in La Fanciulla del West is the score, and it was phenomenally rendered by the pit. The orchestra sounded dense, rich, resonant, and agile.
The chorus did very well and the remaining singers were also very good, especially Giovanni Guagliardo – maybe with the only exception of an under-powered Gianluca Bocchino.
The physical production by renowned Italian stage director and designer Ivan Stefanutti (sets and projections done by Opera Carolina with Michael Baumgarten being responsible for the video parts and lighting) was very nice. It makes use of a large screen on the background that supplements the sets with beautiful images that bring up the icy, snowy and foggy environment, so that the props and pieces of furniture acquire more depth.
The traditional costumes conveyed very accurately the Wild West atmosphere; blocking was good, and overall the acting was rather solid by all involved.
I felt that this production was the best one of the season in all of North Carolina, and it would look good anywhere in the world. As a matter of fact it will look good in several other places in the world, since it is traveling next to New York City Opera and then to some six or seven Italian cities.
To increase my enjoyment even more, Maestro Meena announced from the stage the 2017-18 Opera Carolina season, and I was very pleasantly surprised with the news that the company is going back to four operas per year, and will be treating us to not only one, but two contemporary operas – I Dream by Douglas Tappin, and Cyrano by David DiChiera. As a big fan of contemporary opera, I’m ecstatic: the company is presenting twice as many as the Met (they got only one this season). The other two operas will be Rigoletto by Verdi and Le Nozze di Figaro by Mozart.
With this new phase of trans-state and international co-productions, a season that includes contemporary opera (which is important to keep the art form alive), and this stratospheric level of quality, Opera Carolina by now is entitled to national recognition, no longer deserving to be labelled as simply a regional company. I used to say that people at driving distance should come to attend Opera Carolina. Now I believe that people anywhere in the United States should hop on a plane and come to Opera Carolina. They are getting this good.