THE HANGOVER REPORT – The rarely-performed LA FANCIULLA DEL WEST is given a solid treatment by New York City Opera

Kristin Sampson in New York City Opera’s production of Puccini’s “La Fanciulla del West”

Kristin Sampson in New York City Opera’s production of Puccini’s “La Fanciulla del West”

Yesterday I caught a rare production Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West, an operatic adaptation of David Belasco’s play The Golden Girl of the West (I had only previously seen the opera at Chicago’s mighty Lyric Opera, memorably starring the great Deborah Voigt as Minnie). The opera has long been considered lesser Puccini, particularly if unfairly for its bizarre American “wild west” setting. Nevertheless, Puccini’s score is one of his more appealing and well-crafted efforts. Luckily it gets to shine in New York City Opera’s solid rendition, although the decidedly simple staging doesn’t even attempt to remedy, let alone avoid, the libretto’s built-in awkward, laughable clichés. The somewhat disappointing direction by Ivan Stefanutti is straightforward, relying heavily on projections of stock images.

But no matter, the reason to pay a visit the Rose Theater is the music making. Conducted by James Meena, the New York City Opera Orchestra gave an engaged rendition of the attractively seamless score. Of the cast, Kristin Sampson – cast in the titular role – made a strong impression both vocally and dramatically. Her expressive soprano wonderfully painted the portrait of a woman both strong and vulnerable. As her bandit lover, Jonathan Barton impressed the audience with his smooth yet full-bodied ringing tenor. Even if the supporting cast gave spotty performances, the mostly male chorus sounded robust, filling the Rose Theater impressively and with ease. New York City Opera has smartly programmed this production of La Fanciulla del West before the commencement of the Metropolitan Opera season, which includes revivals of La Boheme, Madama Butterfly, and Turandot – all leading up to the hotly anticipated new production of Tosca. Our appetites have been whetted.



New York City Opera at the Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center
3 hours (with two intermissions)
Final performance on September 12

Categories: Music, Opera, Other Music

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