admin On maggio - 10 - 2016

By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

A new edition of Giacomo Puccini’s ‘La fanciulla del West’ tributes the world of filmmaking, at the Milanese Teatro alla Scala. The three-act opera — based on the play ‘The Girl of the Golden West by the American author David Belasco —  tributes the fortitude of the miners who would cross the country for the gold rush, to seek a better life.

The Italian composer takes audiences on a trip to a mining camp, at the foot of the Californian Cloudy Mountains, during the mid 1800s. Inside a polka saloon we get acquainted with the miners, the Sheriff and the girl who owns the tavern, Minnie. Along the way, a love connection nurtures the drama, placing Minnie at the centre of the male dispute, as bloodshed takes over. Howbeit, after a thrilling denouement, love will conquer all.

This edition of ‘The Girl of the Golden West’, directed by Riccardo Chailly, has an impressive orchestra reprise the magnitude of its premiere in 1910 at the Met Opera in New York. Much of what we ordinarily hear today in ‘La fanciulla del West’ is the handiwork of conductor Arturo Toscanini, who beefed up the music to fill New York’s vast Opera House. Riccardo Chailly’s choice of unravelling the music deftly, was made with soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek in mind, who had to play the protagonist Minnie, had she not been substituted at the very last minute (because of a pharyngitis), by the Dutch Barbara Haveman, who did not possess the vocal mightiness required. Haveman’s full portrayal of this romantic Calamity Jane was nevertheless a marvel given the circumstances. Roberto Aronica as Dick Johnson was physically apathetic but vocally ardent, while Claudio Sgura evoked a sinister adversary as Jack Rance.

The mise en scène by Robert Carsen is a pure tribute to the realm of cinema, that does not pertain to Cinemascope alone. His appreciation goes to films like John Ford’s ‘My Darling Clementine’, or expressionist movies such as Victor Sjöström’s ‘The Wind’; with a sprinkle of more recent ‘Sin City’, as bright red blood coalesces with a black&white saturated scenery. Also musical theatre tributes filmmaking, with a metatheatre Broadway homage to Cecil B. DeMille’s 1915 ‘The Girl of the Golden West.’

The cinematic influence may not come as a surprise, since Puccini’s opera very much resembles the frame of reference of a screenplay, focusing on ambiance, close ups and slow motions. However ‘La fanciulla del West’ is pure melodrama in its essence.

Teatro alla Scala becomes the stage where spaghetti western and Puccini’s glorious landscape meet, through an ode to the pursuit of the American Dream.



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