Deborah Voigt has been wowing critics and fans alike with her turn as Puccini’s quintessential New World heroine in the Metropolitan Opera’s centenary staging of La fanciulla del West (The Girl of the Golden West). The New Year soon brings another anniversary production, when Voigt embodies Puccini’s Gold Rush girl again at Lyric Opera of Chicago (Jan 22 – Feb 21). Of a December Met performance as the pistol-packing, poker-playing barmaid, the Associated Press raved: “Voigt displayed a shining top that pierced through the sumptuous orchestration. But it was not just her voice that made it a memorable night. Her warm, endearing manner combined with an infectious, stage-dominating moxie to make Minnie all her own.”
Puccini described the original play of The Girl of the Golden West as “a drama of love against a dark and vast background of primitive characters and untrammeled nature.” The story inspired Puccini to write for one of his favorite female characters, the archetypal street-savvy girl with a heart of gold – an American heroine the composer found “very refreshing.” His Minnie is involved in a love triangle with a bandit, Dick Johnson, and a sheriff, Jack Rance. The Chicago revival of Harold Prince’s La fanciulla production – styled “good as gold” by the Chicago Sun-Times – will reunite the soprano with her Dick Johnson from the Met, tenor Marcello Giordani. Jack Rance will be sung by Marco Vratogna, and Sir Andrew Davis will conduct.
The Met run of La fanciulla del West began on December 6: 100 years to the week since the house premiered Puccini’s opera with Arturo Toscanini on the podium. The new staging marks the first time La fanciulla has been performed at the Met since 1993, and by the end of the run on January 8, the opera will have received more than 100 performances at the house since it premiered on December 10, 1910. The nine performances in the Met’s current run will be capped by a broadcast in the Met: Live in HD series on January 8. Besides Marcello Giordani as Dick Johnson, Voigt is joined by Lucio Gallo as Jack Rance and by conductor Nicola Luisotti, the San Francisco Opera music director who presided over her debut performances in the role this summer. The San Francisco Chronicle enthused over these: “Voigt, singing Minnie for the first time, brought theatrical vibrancy and considerable personal charm to the role – it was no stretch to imagine an entire troop of miners eating out of her hand.”