by Daniel Hathaway
During his visit to New York in 1907 to supervise the Metropolitan Opera’s first productions of Madama Butterfly and Manon Lescaut, Giacomo Puccini got the idea of writing an opera to be set during the 1849 California Gold Rush after seeing David Belasco’s 1905 play, The Girl of the Golden West. The opera received its world premiere by the MET in 1910.
This week, three concert performances of La Fanciulla del West serve as the centerpiece of The Cleveland Orchestra’s Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Opera & Humanities Festival this month at Severance Music Center and around town, a richly-programmed look into the concept of what James Truslow Adams dubbed “The American Dream” in his 1931 Great Depression Era book, The Epic of America.
For the Cleveland production, which opened on May 13, the Orchestra is front and center. The principal singers perform from a raised platform connected to the organ chamber whose front pipes have been removed for entrances and exits. Secondary characters sing from another platform on stage right, and the male chorus is located on the other side. [Read more…]