Giacomo Puccini

La fanciulla del West (The Girl of the Golden West), opera

    Description by Rovi Staff

    Anyone familiar with the "Spaghetti Westerns" of the 1960s knows that the American west has held a particular fascination for film audiences in Italy -- indeed throughout Europe. However, such memorable films such as A Fistful of Dollars and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly were only the culmination of a European love affair with the folklore and adventure of the wild west that dates back to the end of the nineteenth century. With this in mind, then, it is easier to understand why, in 1907, Giacomo Puccini--the leading composer of Italian opera--would turn to the gold mining towns of California as inspiration for his most ambitious opera to date.

    Puccini saw David Belasco's play The Girl of the Golden West while attending the premieres of Manon Lescaut and Madama Butterfly at the Metropolitan Opera. While he was not immediately sure of the work itself, he left New York with a lingering interest in western themes, and when his publisher, Tito Ricordi, engaged Carlo Zingarini to write a libretto based on Belasco's play, Puccini embraced the project with great enthusiasm. Composition would not begin, however, for a further nine months, as Puccini's time and energies were quickly consumed by a domestic tragedy involving the suicide of his maidservant, and a subsequent lawsuit against his wife, Elvira.

    Work on the opera was finally completed in August of 1910.

    Puccini's Fanciulla is the story of Minnie, a saloon owner in a mining town who falls in love with a notorious bandit; she places herself at risk to help him escape from an angry posse. The composer felt that the finished product was his finest work yet, integrating new tonal idioms and dramatic devices into his essentially lyrical style, while achieving a whole new level of concision. The organic, through-composed nature of the score makes excerpting arias and ensembles difficult; in fact, the bandit Ramerrez's third-act aria, "Ch'ella me creda liberto e lontano," is the only true set piece in the entire opera. However, there are other memorable tunes, not the least of which is the sentimental ballad, "Che faranno i vecchi miei là lontano," which appears early on in the first scene, and the tune of which recurs frequently as a unifying element.

    The premiere, at the Metropolitan Opera in November, 1910, was notable for its inclusion of Enrico Caruso in the role of Ramerrez (a.k.a. Dick Johnson) and was by all accounts a triumph; but enthusiasm for Fanciulla quickly faded, and it has never firmly established itself in the repertory.

    Parts/Movements

    1. No. 1, Che faranno i vecchi miei
    2. No. 2, Jim, perchè piangi?
    3. No. 3a, Dove eravamo?
    4. No. 3b, Lavami e saro bianco
    5. No. 4a, Ti voglio bene, Minnie
    6. No. 4b, Minnie, dalla mia casa
    7. No. 5, Laggiu nel Soledad
    8. No. 6a, Mister Johnson siete rimasto
    9. No. 6b, Non so, non so
    10. No. 7, Oh, se sapeste
    11. No. 8a, Si! Tanto!
    12. No. 8b, Perche questa parola?
    13. No. 9a, Una parola sola!
    14. No. 9b, Sono Ramerrez
    15. No. 9c, Or son sei mesi
    16. No. 10, Che c'è di nuovo, Jack?
    17. No. 11, Siete pronto?
    18. No. 12, Ch'ella mi creda libero
    19. No. 13a, Ah!... Ah!
    20. No. 13b, Non vi su mai chi disse

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Dynamic DYNCDS 781602
    2017 PentaTone Classics PTC 5186243
    2016 Alto 2028
    2015 Walhall WLCD 0355
    2014 Oehms Classics OC 945
    2014 Urania / Urania Records WS 121215
    2012 Broken Audio BRAUR 0191
    2011 CAvi-music / SoloVoce 2 CDS 8553212
    2010 Opera Fanatic OF 65
    2009 Sony Classical 7446622
    2008 Regis Records 2080
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099921546
    2008 EMI Classics
    2008 Decca 001064502
    2007 BRV 9906
    2007 EMI Music Distribution 81862
    2007 Opera D'Oro 7036
    2006 Opera D'Oro 5601
    2006 Myto Records 61110
    2004 Deutsche Grammophon 474840
    2004 Myto Records 41290
    2004 Myto Records 42087
    2003 Decca 473045
    2002 Opera D'Oro 5009
    2002 Fonit-Cetra Italia 87488
    2002 Decca 421595
    2001 Opera D'Oro 1318
    2000 Opera D'Oro 1242
    2000 Myto Records 975169
    1999 Grand Tier 1798
    1992 Sony Music Distribution S2K-47189
    1987 Deutsche Grammophon 419640
    RCA 60597
    Melodram 27081
    Myto Records 93383
    Legato Classics 2272