Author Topic: La Fanciulla del West  (Read 2143 times)

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Offline Alberich

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La Fanciulla del West
« on: July 12, 2015, 09:37:10 AM »
Any fans of this Puccini opera? It is probably my favorite from him, beating even Tosca and Turandot. Puccini himself considered this one his greatest work. There are maybe some problems with libretto, for ex. The "noble bandit" is maybe a bit of a cliché but I think Dick Johnson alias Ramerrez is portrayed with passion in Puccini's music. I really feel sympathy for his plight. Not only "ch'ella mi creda", but several other scenes such as his confession and remorse about his lifestyle in act II and his moving respect for Minnie's resolve to protect the gold in act I... all those scenes have power hard to match.

The antagonist of the piece, "Scarpia of the west", Jack Rance, is sometimes called a villain but I really have hard time seeing him as a bad guy at all. Yes, he wants to hang Ramerrez, that would be harsh by today's standards, as Ramerrez vows he never killed a man, merely stole. But considering this is Wild West where you could be shot/hanged for no reason at all, he seems relatively reasonable. In the very first scene of his he saves the man from lynching when caught cheating while playing cards. So comparing him to Scarpia seems really a stretch. To me the most humane and perhaps most powerful moment in this opera comes from Rance in the first act, in his aria "Minnie, dalla mia casa son partito", he expresses magnificently displayed sorrow.

Minnie herself is one of the more active Puccini women, along with Tosca and Turandot. She has courage to defend her loved one and isn't above cheating in order to gain her goals. And her influence with prospectors allows a relative rarity in Puccini's oeuvre to come about: a happy/bittersweet ending.
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Online mc ukrneal

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Re: La Fanciulla del West
« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2015, 09:57:01 AM »
Any fans of this Puccini opera? It is probably my favorite from him, beating even Tosca and Turandot. Puccini himself considered this one his greatest work. There are maybe some problems with libretto, for ex. The "noble bandit" is maybe a bit of a cliché but I think Dick Johnson alias Ramerrez is portrayed with passion in Puccini's music. I really feel sympathy for his plight. Not only "ch'ella mi creda", but several other scenes such as his confession and remorse about his lifestyle in act II and his moving respect for Minnie's resolve to protect the gold in act I... all those scenes have power hard to match.

The antagonist of the piece, "Scarpia of the west", Jack Rance, is sometimes called a villain but I really have hard time seeing him as a bad guy at all. Yes, he wants to hang Ramerrez, that would be harsh by today's standards, as Ramerrez vows he never killed a man, merely stole. But considering this is Wild West where you could be shot/hanged for no reason at all, he seems relatively reasonable. In the very first scene of his he saves the man from lynching when caught cheating while playing cards. So comparing him to Scarpia seems really a stretch. To me the most humane and perhaps most powerful moment in this opera comes from Rance in the first act, in his aria "Minnie, dalla mia casa son partito", he expresses magnificently displayed sorrow.

Minnie herself is one of the more active Puccini women, along with Tosca and Turandot. She has courage to defend her loved one and isn't above cheating in order to gain her goals. And her influence with prospectors allows a relative rarity in Puccini's oeuvre to come about: a happy/bittersweet ending.
Very enjoyable opera, particularly the opening and close. Rance reminds me of Javert. The opera doesn't go on long enough to show whether he can live with his decision though. There is definite sorrow in this one, which may make it uncomfortable for some. I think it is a difficult feat to marry opera and the wild west, but Puccini does a credible job.
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Offline springrite

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Re: La Fanciulla del West
« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2015, 10:08:23 AM »
I saw this opera live in Los Angeles with Domingo as Dick Johnson and Milnes as Jack Rance. Quite a cast as I thoroughly enjoyed it!
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Offline Alberich

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Re: La Fanciulla del West
« Reply #3 on: July 12, 2015, 10:32:28 AM »
Rance reminds me of Javert.

An excellent observation!
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Offline Wendell_E

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Re: La Fanciulla del West
« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2015, 03:08:44 AM »
The antagonist of the piece, "Scarpia of the west", Jack Rance, is sometimes called a villain but I really have hard time seeing him as a bad guy at all. Yes, he wants to hang Ramerrez, that would be harsh by today's standards, as Ramerrez vows he never killed a man, merely stole. But considering this is Wild West where you could be shot/hanged for no reason at all, he seems relatively reasonable. In the very first scene of his he saves the man from lynching when caught cheating while playing cards. So comparing him to Scarpia seems really a stretch. To me the most humane and perhaps most powerful moment in this opera comes from Rance in the first act, in his aria "Minnie, dalla mia casa son partito", he expresses magnificently displayed sorrow.


He also keeps his poker bargain with Minnie, not something Scarpia would do.  Of course, Minnie cheats, and we love her for it.

My favorite Puccini opera by a wide margin.
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Offline king ubu

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Re: La Fanciulla del West
« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2015, 05:27:47 AM »
Consider me a fan, too!

Haven't really started exploring it as far as (stockpiled) recordings go, but I've seen a Vienna staging with Nina Stemme and Jonas Kaufmann on tv about a year back and very much enjoyed it (Vienna State Opera/Franz Welser-Möst, don't remember who was in charge of the mise-en-scène but I thought it was pretty nicely done).
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Offline (poco) Sforzando

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Re: La Fanciulla del West
« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2015, 05:38:41 AM »
I like this one a lot, even when such things as Whiskey per tutti! and the scene for the two Indians provoke an unintended guffaw. With Minnie, Puccini created an unusually strong and believable heroine, and the card-playing scene is one of his most powerful. And for once a happy ending! For some reason, though, this opera has never been one of his most popular, and revivals here at the Met in New York are infrequent. I have never seen it live, and only once on a Live from the Met HD broadcast. I only have one recording too, Birgit Nilsson's, which is slightly marred by a small Act One cut, but otherwise a role tailor-made for her, and with excellent sound and dynamic conducting from von Matacic.
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Offline Wendell_E

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Re: La Fanciulla del West
« Reply #7 on: July 16, 2015, 03:49:47 AM »
the scene for the two Indians provoke an unintended guffaw.

Here's another guffaw, in the casting for a 1915 Yale University production of Belasco's play:

Quote
Wockle, the Fox; Billy's Squaw: Knute Rockne

http://archives.nd.edu/search/theatre/plays047.htm

Too bad there's no video.
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: La Fanciulla del West
« Reply #8 on: July 24, 2015, 12:12:47 AM »
This is an opera that grows on you. I saw it many years ago at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in a splendid (and very lavish, by today's standards) production by Piero Faggioni, with Domingo, Carol Neblett and Silvano Carrolli, and also have the superb DG recording this production was based on, though the better known Sherrill Milnes replaced Carrolli on the recording. Domingo and Milnes are both excellent, as might be expected, but the real star of the recording is Carol Neblett. Her voice has more warmth than Nilsson, but is just as firm and thrilling on high. Whatever happened to her?
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Wendell_E

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Re: La Fanciulla del West
« Reply #9 on: July 24, 2015, 03:16:16 AM »
Carol Neblett.... Whatever happened to her?

She spoke frankly about her problems in a 2003 Opera News interview (she was 57 at that time).  If you're a subscriber, you can read it here: http://www.operanews.com/Opera_News_Magazine/2003/9/Departments/Reunion__Carol_Neblett.html

Some excerpts:
Quote
What went wrong? For one thing, Neblett admits that she may have let herself be pushed too much by others....   Nonetheless, she allowed herself to be talked into making her 1979 Met debut in the role of Senta, even though she had doubts about taking on the Wagner repertoire....  Viewers of the 1983 Met Centennial Gala may remember Neblett being defeated by Senta's upper reaches during the Holländer duet with Simon Estes. At that point, she already had been singing La Fanciulla del West for some time. Undoubtedly, that heavy part took a toll, as well. "It was more daunting than I realized," she says. "But I liked it. I sang it a long time"...

A day of reckoning finally came. "I went through what somebody might call a vocal crisis. I had learned to sing, I thought -- then thought I didn't know how to sing at all anymore. Somebody very powerful at the Met said, 'Go off and work with this particular teacher,' which did me no good at all. In fact, it made me more mixed-up....

It was during this period of torment and self-doubt that alcoholism set in....

Her drinking put an end to her marriage to conductor Kenneth Schermerhorn....

Their [Neblett's and second husband  Philip Akre's] older daughter, who was vacationing in the Midwest, had just been killed in an accident involving a reckless driver.

[The final paragraph of the article] An offer to sing again probably wouldn't hurt either, but opera companies seem to think she has dropped off the face of the earth. "In the long run," she muses, "I guess adversity does make us stronger -- if it doesn't kill us first. In recent years, I've said, 'I just don't know why this is happening, but someday I will. I've got to go through it. I'm going through it.'"

According to Wikipedia, she's "currently an artist in residence and voice instructor at Chapman University in Southern California. She is also on the faculty of the International Lyric Academy in Rome."

Edit:  I neglected to include it in the quote, but she also talks about singing too much, with not enough rest between performances, and that, as often happens, the death of their child contributed to the end of her second marriage.
« Last Edit: July 24, 2015, 03:49:37 AM by Wendell_E »
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Offline Alberich

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Re: La Fanciulla del West
« Reply #10 on: July 24, 2015, 04:13:07 AM »
and also have the superb DG recording this production was based on, though the better known Sherrill Milnes replaced Carrolli on the recording.

That's probably my favorite recording of this opera.
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Offline Jeffrey Smith

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Re: La Fanciulla del West
« Reply #11 on: July 24, 2015, 05:37:22 AM »
This is an opera that grows on you. I saw it many years ago at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in a splendid (and very lavish, by today's standards) production by Piero Faggioni, with Domingo, Carol Neblett and Silvano Carrolli, and also have the superb DG recording this production was based on, though the better known Sherrill Milnes replaced Carrolli on the recording. Domingo and Milnes are both excellent, as might be expected, but the real star of the recording is Carol Neblett. Her voice has more warmth than Nilsson, but is just as firm and thrilling on high. Whatever happened to her?

I have the DVD (with Carrolli) as part of this set.


Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: La Fanciulla del West
« Reply #12 on: July 24, 2015, 05:45:10 AM »
She spoke frankly about her problems in a 2003 Opera News interview (she was 57 at that time).  If you're a subscriber, you can read it here: http://www.operanews.com/Opera_News_Magazine/2003/9/Departments/Reunion__Carol_Neblett.html

Some excerpts:
According to Wikipedia, she's "currently an artist in residence and voice instructor at Chapman University in Southern California. She is also on the faculty of the International Lyric Academy in Rome."

Edit:  I neglected to include it in the quote, but she also talks about singing too much, with not enough rest between performances, and that, as often happens, the death of their child contributed to the end of her second marriage.

How very sad. She was perfect for the role of Minnie. It's no wonder she was asked to sing it so much.

\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

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