Monday, January 10, 2011

La Fanciulla Del West

Bill has recently developed a love for opera. I'll admit. This has me roll my eyes. In what little exposure I have had to listening to or seeing opera productions on TV, I have not enjoyed it. The high notes from the sopranos and tenors in particular set my teeth on edge. I might even be a bigger fan of the music itself--if they just wouldn't sing in that operatic style. There are some orchestral versions of opera music that I love. The operas that I have attended in the past were Andrew Lloyd Webber productions like "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Les Miserables" that were in English. I love the music from those productions as they actually are more in the musical style than opera but I found seeing the actual productions disappointing--too long and boring. Bill thinks that Andrew Lloyd Webber is overbearing and thought if I could only see an opera production other than Andrew Lloyd Webber that I would enjoy it as much as he does. In the past few months, he has been to three productions of the Metropolitan Opera in HD at a movie theater in Portland that shows them. This was the fourth and in order to not dismiss it without actually seeing one, I consented to going to "La Fanciulla Del West" which means the Girl of the Golden West as it was supposed to be a lighter opera.
This is the 100th anniversary of Puccini writing "La Fanciulla Del West". He wrote it to appeal to his American audience. It takes place in a California gold rush camp. The bar owner, Minnie, is loved by all the miners and fought over. The sheriff, Jack Rance, is one of her suitors despite the fact he is married. But in walks Dick Johnson, a bandit that came with the intention of stealing the gold being stored in the bar, and he sweeps Minnie off her feet. The sheriff shoots Dick and wants to arrest him but Minnie cheats at a game of poker to win his freedom. After Dick recovers from his injuries, he is captured by the men in the camp and Minnie tries to appeal to them to let him go. Because of their love for her, they allow them to leave the camp to start a new life for themselves--although the opera ends with the sheriff making it look like he was going to go after them and kill Dick.
I can't say that I enjoyed the production all that much. I have to admit it did have its moments that were fun but for the most part, I found it to be too long and not very engaging. As with my past experiences, I might enjoy one act but find the rest to be tedious. And the singing hurts my ears and gives me a headache. It does pain me that I don't enjoy them as much as Bill does. I know this is something that he has been hoping that we could enjoy together--especially as we get closer and closer to being emptynesters. I just find it to be pure torture to sit listening to it for any length of time.

While I didn't necessarily enjoy it myself, I definitely would recommend to anyone that does enjoy opera that they see if they can find someplace that shows the Metropolitan Opera on HD. They present a live production every month and usually show it one other time prior to the next live production. The sets and costuming are wonderful. And you actually have a better seat than you would in an opera theater with all the closeups that they do in the videotaping of the production. Between acts there are intermissions to allow time for changing sets. What I did find fascinating is that they showed all the behind the scenes taking down and replacement of the sets. And before the opera starts and for portions of the intermissions, they interview the singers, stage managers, conductor and others involved in staging the opera. That is what I found more interesting than actually seeing the opera itself. And the cost is pretty reasonable compared to going to an actual stage production of an opera. Tickets here in Portland are $25 to see it in the movie theater. So while I doubt that I will be going to many more operas in my future, I definitely wanted to recommend to anyone that does love opera that this is a great way to see it for a reasonable price.


  1. Ok...your review has me laughing! I give you credit for going. I love all kinds of music, but I just can't get into Opera.

  2. That's too bad that you didn't enjoy it. I am hoping to see it in our local theater to see if I will. I am intrigued and hope I will enjoy. ps, your honesty had me giggling!