Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Performances

The Barber of Seville, ENO London

This may be the twelfth revival of Jonathan Miller’s 1987 production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville for English National Opera, but the ready laughter from the auditorium and the fresh musical and dramatic responses from the stage suggest that it will continue to amuse audiences and serve the house well for some time to come.

Monteverdi: Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, Bostridge, Barbican London

The third and final instalment of the Academy of Ancient Music’s survey of Monteverdi’s operas at the Barbican began and ended in darkness; the red glow of the single candle was an apt visual frame for a performance which was dedicated to the memory of the late Andrew Porter, the music critic and writer whose learned, pertinent and eloquent words did so much to restore Monteverdi, Cavalli and other neglected music-dramatists to the operatic stage.

English Touring Opera - Debussy, Massenet and Offenbach

English Touring Opera’s recent programming has been ambitious and inventive, and the results have been rewarding. We had two little-known Donizetti operas, The Siege of Calais and The Wild Man of the West Indies, in spring 2015, while autumn 2014 saw the company stage comedy by Haydn (Il mondo della luna) and romantic history by Handel (Ottone).

Verismo Double Header in Los Angeles

LA Opera got its season off to an auspicious beginning with starry revivals of Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci.

Viva Verdi at Opera Las Vegas

On September 9, 2015, Opera Las Vegas presented James Sohre’s production of Viva Verdi at the Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz. It was a delightful evening of arias, duets and ensembles by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). The program included many of the composer’s blockbuster arias and scenes from famous operas such as Aida, La traviata, and Macbeth.

Barbera Sings a Fascinating Recital in San Diego

On Saturday, September 19, San Diego Opera opened its 2015-2016 season with a recital by tenor René Barbera. This was the first Polly Puterbaugh Emerging Artist Award Recital and no artist could have been more deserving than the immensely talented Barbera.

Sweeney Todd at the San Francisco Opera

Did the iconic “off-beat” and “serious” American musical hold the stage of the War Memorial Opera House? The excited audience (standees three deep) thought so and roared their appreciation.

Wigmore Hall Complete Schubert Song Series begins with Boesch and Johnson

The Wigmore Hall, London, has launched Schubert : The Complete Songs, a 40-concert series to run through the 2015 and 2016 seasons. There have been Schubert marathons before, like BBC Radio 3's all-Schubert week and The Oxford Lieder Festival's Schubert series last year, but the Wigmore Hall series will be a major landmark because the Wigmore Hall is the Wigmore Hall, the epitome of excellence.

Luisa Miller in San Francisco

Luisa Miller sits on the fringes of the repertory, and since its introduction into the modern repertory in the 1970’s it comes around every 15 or so years. Unfortunately this 2015 San Francisco occasion has not bothered to rethink this remarkable opera.

Salieri: La grotta di Trofonio (Trofonio’s Cave)

Demonised by Pushkin and Peter Shaffer, Antonio Salieri lives in the public imagination as the embittered rival of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — whose genius he lamented and revered in equal measure, and against whom he schemed and plotted at the Emperor Joseph II’s Viennese court.

Chicago Lyric’s Stars Shine at Millennium Park

The annual concert given by Lyric Opera of Chicago as an outdoor event previewing the forthcoming season took place on 11 September 2015 at Millennium Park.

Gluck: Orphée et Eurydice

Orpheus — that Greek hero whose songs could enchant both deities and beasts, whose lyre has become a metaphor for the power of music itself, and whose journey to the Underworld to rescue his wife, Eurydice, kick-started the art of opera in Mantua in 1607 — has been travelling far and wide around the UK in 2015.

Vaughan Williams and Holst Double Bill

One is a quasi-verbatim rendering of J.M. Synge’s bleak tale of a Donegal family’s fateful dependency on and submission to the deathly power of the sea.

Iestyn Davies at Wigmore Hall

Is there anything that countertenor Iestyn Davies cannot do with his voice?

Prom 75: The Dream of Gerontius

BBC Proms Youth Choir shines in a performance notable for its magical transparency

Prom 67: Bernstein — Stage and Screen

The John Wilson Orchestra have been annual summer visitors to the Royal Albert Hall since their Proms debut in 2009 and, with their seductive blend of technical precision, buoyant glitziness and relaxed insouciance, their concerts have become a hugely anticipated fixture and a sure highlight of the Promenade season.

Prom 65: Alice Coote sings Handel

Disappointing staging mars Alice Coote’s vibrant if wayward musical performance

Santa Fe: Secondary Mozart in First Rate Staging

Impresario Boris Goldovsky famously referred to La finta giardiniera as The Phony Farmerette.

Regimented Daughter in Santa Fe

At Santa Fe Opera, Donizetti’s effervescent The Daughter of the Regiment can’t quite decide what it wants to be when it grows up.

Santa Fe’s Celebratory Jester

Santa Fe Opera noted a landmark two-thousandth performance in their distinguished history with a stylish new production of Rigoletto.



Deborah Voigt as the Girl [Photo by Dan Rest courtesy of Lyric Opera of Chicago]
02 Feb 2011

La Fanciulla in its Anniversary at Lyric Opera of Chicago

In its current production of Giacomo Puccini’s La fanciulla del West Lyric Opera of Chicago celebrates the centenary of the first performances of the opera.

Giacomo Puccini: La Fanciulla del West

Minnie: Deborah Voigt; Dick Johnson (Ramerrez): Marcello Giordani; Jack Rance: Marco Vratogna; Nick: David Cangelosi; Sonora: Daniel Sutin; Ashby: Craig Irvin; Jake Wallace: Paul Corona; Harry: René Barbera; Joe: James Kryshak; Trin: David Portillo; Larkens: Corey Crider; Sid: Philip Kraus; Handsome: Paul La Rosa; Happy: Paul Scholten; Wowkle: Katherine Lerner. Also Featuring: Evan Boyer, Sam Handley. Conductor: Sir Andrew Davis. Original Production: Harold Prince. Director: Vincent Liotta. Original Set Designer: Eugene Lee. Original Costume Designer: Franne Lee. New Scenery and Costumes: Scott Marr. Lighting Designer: Jason Brown. Chorus Master: Donald Nally.

Above: Deborah Voigt as the Girl

All photos by Dan Rest courtesy of Lyric Opera of Chicago


As elsewhere during the past year Deborah Voigt sings the role of Minnie, who manages the Polka tavern in a California mining camp. The man who wins her heart, and is identified alternately as Dick Johnson or Ramerrez, is sung by Marcello Giordani. The baritone Marco Vratogna, in his debut at Lyric Opera, takes on the role of Jack Rance, the Sheriff who also develops an emotional attachment to Minnie. Sir Andrew Davis conducts with enthusiastic vigor the Lyric Opera Orchestra.

Fanciulla_Chicago_05.gifMarco Vratogna as Jack Rance and Marcello Giordani as Dick Johnson (Ramerrez)

In the brief orchestral prelude to Act I Davis emphasizes sweeping gestures with hints of the West looking toward the action of the opera. Credit must be given to the ensemble of performers making up the cast of miners in the opening scene. Under the direction of chorus master Donald Nally members of the Ryan Opera Center executed both solo and group parts convincingly in their dramatic and vocal involvement. The tavern is first depicted as a relatively dark set with painted flats or backdrops signifying the California mountains of the 1849 Gold Rush. Once the miners are gathered inside the Polka, the set brightens and the stage is devoted to an appropriately busy series of exchanges. The manipulative bartender Nick, here portrayed and sung with just the right amount of dash by David Cangelosi, proclaims, “Whisky per tutti;” all then settle to hear a nostalgic ballad sung by the character Jake Wallace, movingly performed by Paul Corona. When an argument erupts over a game of cards, only the intercession of Sheriff Rance halts the possibility of further violence. Mr. Vratogna cuts an imposing figure as Jack Rance, his snarling demeanor commanding respect as he tosses off lines with angry menace. Vratogna’s declamatory force is more effective than his lines in the middle register of his vocal range, where he seems to depend on a recurring tremulous approach. Yet even Rance is not immune to a good fight, as one breaks out against a miner who vies — like the Sheriff — for the love of Minnie. In her first dramatic entrance, accompanied by pistol shots, she indeed stops the fight and settles any confusion brewing in her saloon. Ms. Voigt proves herself comfortable in the role of Minnie. She is able to combine swagger, as she tosses back a drink, with the mothering care she feels for the miners. Further, Voigt invests her character with a tender emotionalism , as she explains to Rance what she hopes to find in love with an ideal partner. In the only solo part of this act which could be deemed an aria for Minnie, Voigt states her case movingly if at times with some insecurity in notes that are taken forte. Soon after her statement the figure identifying himself as Dick Johnson enters the tavern, and their emotional bond develops in an extended scene of dialogue and shared lyricism. Mr. Giordani fulfills the vocal demands of the role admirably in his abilities to sing at varying expressive levels while shading his voice to emphasize his character’s personality. In the identity of Ramerrez he is, of course, the leader of a criminal gang who collectively plan to rob Minnie’s tavern. The love which springs up in their scene together causes Dick/Ramerrez to abandon this plan as Minnie declares at the close of the act that she guards the gold belonging to the miners. Whoever wants it will first have to kill her.

Fanciulla_Chicago_04.gifMarcello Giordani as Dick Johnson (Ramerrez) and Deborah Voigt as the Girl

In Act II Dick has responded to an invitation to visit Minnie at her cabin. At the opening Minnie’s Indian maidservant agrees that she will follow the moral suggestion of her mistress and marry the father of her young child. She helps Minnie to change into more domestic attire and withdraws to her teepee following the introduction of Dick’s visit. At first Minnie resists Dick’s advances, then she surrenders yielding to him her first kiss. Because of the falling snow Dick is allowed to stay the night and is given space at a respectable distance. When the Sheriff and his guard awaken the pair, Dick hides during a confrontational scene in which Minnie must accept the news of her lover’s criminal association. Once they are again alone, Minnie releases her bitter resentment in a series of outbursts that show Voigt in her best form of the performance. Her top notes are convincingly delivered with the stirring communication of a deceived soul. Despite Dick’s touching self-defense Minnie forces him out of the cabin, where his is wounded by the law. When Jack Rance returns and discovers his bleeding prey returned to Minnie’s protection, a card-game determines the hero’s fate. In her well-acted stint at poker Voigt proves Minnie’s devotion to Dick by cheating and, when left alone, casting her bogus cards into the air to celebrate her win.

The short Act III of Puccini’s opera provides resolution of both emotions and individual characters as portrayed. When Dick is caught by a posse and threatened with punishment by hanging, he begs that Minnie not be informed of his shameful death. Giordani’s aria as the tenor’s highlight of this performance is an impressive appeal to spare the feelings of his beloved. Minnie’s entrance while riding and plying a mining cart is as show-stopping as her pistol shots in the first act. At the same time, her sincere reminders now that Dick has been blessed by God, who has changed him, recalls her readings from the Bible in that opening scene. She succeeds through dint of her persuasive tone in freeing the reformed Dick. As they look forward to a life elsewhere, Voigt and Giordani sing a stirringly united “Addio” to California and the Sierras.

Salvatore Calomino

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):