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Ionarts in Santa Fe: Further Thoughts on 'La Fanciulla del West'

Ensemble in The Girl of the Golden West (Photo © Ken Howard for Santa Fe Opera, 2016)

Charles T. Downey, Santa Fe Opera, part 2: the 60th anniversary’s big-ticket items
Washington Post, August 4

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Puccini, La Fanciulla del West, R. Tebaldi, M. del Monaco, C. MacNeil, Orchestra of Accademia di Santa Cecilia, F. Capuana
Puccini's La Fanciulla del West may not be a rarity in some parts of the world, but Santa Fe Opera had not produced this work since 1995 when it revived it for this year's 60th anniversary season. The company bet on the draw of Puccini's name, even though this opera is perhaps the composer's most unwieldy, and its regular Mozart to fill the house for ten performances each. By comparison Roméo et Juliette was given seven performances, and Capriccio and Vanessa, the latter arguably the best production of the season, just five each.

Other Reviews:

John Stege, Pistol-Packin’ Minnie (Santa Fe Reporter, July 6)

Scott Cantrell, Santa Fe scene: A British stage director and a French conductor take on Puccini's Western opera (Dallas Morning News, August 3)

Heidi Waleson, The 2016 Festival Season at the Santa Fe Opera (Wall Street Journal, August 9)
Emmanuel Villaume and the Santa Fe Opera orchestra turned in a compelling reading of this most accomplished score. It was not in the same class as Lorin Maazel's poised conducting of the work, the only other time it has come under review on this side of the Atlantic, at the Castleton Festival in 2013. Still, Villaume and especially the male chorus gave the work the nostalgic warmth needed to soften some of the less believable twists of the story.

If we do not find credible the homesickness of the miners in the first act, in their need to believe, as in the psalm taught to them by Minnie, in the possibility that every one of them can be saved by God, then their decision not to hang Dick Johnson at the end of the third act will seem doubly ridiculous. Probably, the opera likely would work better, would seem less silly, if it ended tragically. If Johnson got hanged and the boys shot their beloved Minnie as she tried to save him, the dying heroine would have found, as suffering women always do, her perfect complement in the music of Puccini.

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