Opera Carolina goes West (by way of Italy)

A partnership with five Italian theaters and NYC Opera brings Puccini’s The Girl of the West to Charlotte April 23, 27 and 29 – before it heads on international tour

Charlotte, N.C., (March 13, 2017) – When Puccini’s The Girl of the West premieres in Charlotte, it will be the culmination of a nearly two-year partnership between Opera Carolina, New York City Opera, Teatro Lirico in Cagliari, Sardenia and the Teatro di Giglio in Lucca, Italy – Puccini’s hometown, with additional performances in Pisa, Livorno and Modena, Italy

“We will have guests from around the world here in Charlotte for the opening of the new production,” said James Meena, artistic director & principal conductor of Opera Carolina. “Nothing like this has ever been attempted by a Charlotte arts organization.”

Meena and Marcello Giordani, a leading Italian tenor for two decades at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, who will star in the production, had the idea to co-produce Puccini’s famous Western. Acclaimed Italian director/designer Ivan Stefanutti heads the creative team that includes the Atelier Nicolao in Venice, Italy.

Set-building and costume design have been an international effort. The production was built in Opera Carolina’s Gastonia shop. Michael Baumgarten, Opera Carolina’s production director, and Stefanutti created digital projections in Charlotte. Costumes were created in Venice.

The Girl of the West is Grand Opera’s version of Gunsmoke or a Clint Eastwood western – except it’s set to an operatic soundtrack. Puccini blended the two seemingly incongruent things – a bona fide, gun-slinging Western and a full-blown, over-the-top opera – into a magnificent whole.

The plot may sound familiar: Goldminers are regulars at a saloon, where they’ve stashed gold. An outlaw and his posse come looking for it. But in this story, the hero is a gun-toting, saloon-owning, Bible-loving woman, Minnie.

This being an opera, there is a love triangle. Both Sheriff Jack Rance and the bandit fall for Minnie. This being a Western, there’s also the threat of frontier justice.

“Our theme this year has been ‘Life Set to Music,’ and all three Grand Operas we’ve produced demonstrate that the stories told through opera are real and relevant,” said Meena. “There’s nothing more American than the Western, and Puccini proves that the enduring genre is a good fit for the stage – as well as for novels and television.”

This season, Opera Carolina is partnering with The Punch Room at The Ritz-Carlton to create a specialty cocktail for each opera. The Punch Room’s head mixologist, Bob Peters, concocts a beverage based on the opera’s themes. For The Girl of the West, he created “The Absent Whistle,” based on the moment, he said, the audience realizes who Minnie’s true love is.

“The Absent Whistle” is made with Bulleit bourbon; sweet vermouth from Italy, in honor of Puccini; and prosecco, which has been an ingredient in all three opera cocktails this season.

For the sixth consecutive year, Wells Fargo Private Bank returns as Opera Carolina’s season sponsor. The season is also made possible by the Hearst Corporation and the Hearst Foundations, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Maurer Family Foundation.

All Grand Opera performances are at the Belk Theater, North Carolina Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. Tickets are on sale now through the Performing Arts Center Box Office at 704.372.1000 or via operacarolina.org. Single tickets start at just $21.

About the Cast

Soprano Kristin Sampson (Minnie) makes her Opera Carolina debut in the role of Minnie. But playing the heroine is nothing new to her. Her long list of heroines includes the title role of Tosca, Violetta (La traviata), Nedda (I Pagliacci), Cio-Cio-San (Madama Butterfly), Micaela (Carmen), Juliette (Romeo et Juliette), Cleopatra (Giulio Cesare) and Mimi and Musetta (La bohème). She has performed in the U.S. with the Santa Fe Opera, Opera Orchestra of New York, El Paso Opera and the National Lyric Opera among others, and internationally with the Opera Society of Hong Kong, Teatro Municipal de Santiago and Teatro dell’Opera di Roma. Read her complete bio here.

Tenor Marcello Giordani (The Bandit/Dick Johnson) has been hailed by the international press as one of the most important tenors of his generation. He’s making his Opera Carolina debut, although he has appeared all over the world and has sung with many of today’s most renowned conductors. His versatility and vocal range have meant a vast repertory, from the Bel Canto operas of Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini to the lyricism of the French operatic repertoire to the more dramatic roles of Verdi, Puccini and Berlioz. The native of Sicily won the singing competition of Spoleto the same year he made his professional debut as the Duke in Rigoletto at the Festival of Spoleto in Italy. His American debut was as Nadir in Les Pêcheurs de Perles at the Portland Opera during the 1988/89 season. Read his complete bio here.

Baritone Aleksey Bogdanov (The Sheriff) makes his Opera Carolina debut in the role of Dick Johnson’s romantic rival for Minnie’s heart. This season, Bogdanov appears with Washington National Opera as Escamillo in Carmen, Peter in Hansel and Gretel, as well as General John A. Rawlins and Governor George Wallace in the premiere of the revised version of Appomattox by Philip Glass. Read his complete bio here.

Ivan Stefanutti directs the production. He has worked as a director and set and costume designer in the most important Italian opera houses, including Teatro Verdi in Trieste, Teatro dell’ Opera in Rome, Teatro Goldoni in Livorno, Teatro Massimo in Palermo, Gran Teatro la Fenice in Venice, Teatro Regio in Turin and more. Read his complete bio here.

About Opera Carolina

Founded in 1948 by the Charlotte Music Club as a small group of volunteers, today Opera Carolina is the largest professional opera company in the Carolinas with an operating budget of more than $3.2 million for the fiscal year 2017.

The mission of Opera Carolina is to inspire the region’s diverse community through the presentation of Opera and Education programs that elevate the quality of life in the Carolinas. Opera Carolina has a commitment to artistic excellence and community service.


Contact: Kathy Rowan



James Meena

704.332.7177, ext. 201