La Fanciulla del West by Puccini, the first western lyric opera, was performed in Amsterdam in 2009, staged by Nikolaus Lehnhoff. In this version, which is now available on medici.tv, the Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest is conducted by Carlo Rizzi. Eva Maria Westbroek plays the part of Minnie and Lucio Gallo plays Jack Rance.
Six years passed between the triumph of Madame Butterfly (1904) and that of La Fanciulla del West (1910). A few years before, Puccini had achieved international fame thanks to La Bohème (1896) and Tosca (1900). Giacomo Puccini composed La Fanciulla del West (The Girl from the West) while travelling through America. The first performance, conducted by Arturo Toscanini at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, was a major success, as proven by the fifty curtain calls at the audience’s behest. The social event represented by the performance brought the composer new success, although it must be recognised that, today, his opera is not as popular as La Bohème, Tosca, Madame Butterfly or even Turlandot. Any opera aficionado can hum the tunes of these famous works, which is not the case for La Fanciulla del West.
The opera tells the tale of gold miners, their loves and their adventures. Minnie is well-liked and runs a bar frequented by the miners. The sheriff only has eyes for her. But, when the mysterious Dick Johnson arrives in town, Minnie falls in love with him instead.
The Cloudy Mountains are not the setting for Nikolaus Lehnhoff's staging, which transposes the plot into 1950s USA. The mining district of 1849-1850 is replaced by the Wall Street stock market and gold miners become regulars at an underground bar. In the pit, the orchestra, conducted by Carlo Rizzi, manages to do justice to Puccini's rich composition without ever drowning out the singers.