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Puccini's "Girl Of The Golden West" Is The Original Spaghetti Western , And The Met's Production Is On PBS This Week

  The latest PBS telecast from the Metropolitan opera is Puccini's "La Fanciulla Del West", or The Girl Of The Golden West , and  check your TV listings for it . In the New York area it will be Thursday April 21 , but check your local  TV listings for the time .  You can also find about about seeing it online at the Met's website ,metopera.org .

   The Met  revived  this  beautiful if somewhat strange opera last December in honor of the world premiere at the old Met in December of 1910 .  Puccini based it on a play by the once famous American playwright  and  theatrical  impresario  David Belasco of the same name .

   It's strange because many people find  the experience of hearing and seeing  19th century California miners singing in Italian  and  words such as "Doo-Dah Doodah Day " , as well as the  opera's somewhat contrived and unlikely ending .  But Puccini's score is  passionate and  ful of sumptuous orchestral colors , and full of  local flavor ,including  familiar  melodies from Western songs of the period .

   The opera takes place in a California mining camp in the mid 19th century  during the gold rush .  It's full of rough-and-ready miners ,many of whom are terribly homesick .  The lovely tomboy Minnie  runs the camp's  bar , and  is  loved by all the miners .  She also  offers Bible classes for them .  The camp sheriff  Jack Rance ,  vlllain of the opera ,although not really an evil man ,loves her  but his love is not requited .

   The  whole camp is on the lookout for a Mexican bandit named Ramirez who passes  himself  off as an Anglo named  "*** Johnson" .  He's the hero , comes into the bar one day  and  naturally , Minnie and   he fall in love , and go off to her cabin .  But Rance and the miners now know who "Johnson" is and come after him .  "Johnson" explains to Minnie that he's not really a bad guy but was forced to become a bandit by  cruel fate . 

   The men have caught him , but Minnie strikes a wager with Rance ; if she can beat him at a game of poker , he will let them  go free and  go off elsewhere as lovers .  Minnie cheats , and Rance reluctantly  leaves .  In the last act , the miners and Rance have caught  the bandit and are about to string him up .  But  believe it or not , Minnie  comes riding in on horseback and begs  Rance and  the miners to  spare him ,  reminding them of how kind she has been to them .  And believe it or not ,  they allow to two two ride off happily into the sunset !

   Even though the story may sound rather improbable ,  the opera is  colorful ,sweeping and  ultra-romantic , and you should have a great time .  The cast includes  the acclaimed American soprano Deborah Voigt  as Minnie ,  Italian tenor  Marcello Giordani  as  the hero , and  Italian baritone Lucio Gallo as Rance .  There s a DVD  available  from  the world-famous Milanese opera house La Scala,  and for a first-rate  CD  version  get  the Deutsche Grammophon recording  with  Carol Neblett ,Placido Domingo  and Sherill Milnes conducted by Zubin Mehta . 
Posted: Apr 21 2011, 05:39 PM by the horn | with no comments
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