Thursday, 12 December 2013

ARTE's broadcast of Puccini's "spaghetti western" La fanciulla del West from the Saatsoper in Vienna

The final scene in Marelli's production of La fanciulla del West: Nina Stemme and Jonas Kaufmann take off
 in a hot air balloon.

Last night the ARTE television channel showed Giacomo Puccini's "spaghetti western" La fanciulla del West from the Staatsoper in Vienna. Puccini, who himself ranked this opera as his best, wrote the piece for the Metropolitan, where it was premiered in 1910.

Emmy Destinn as Minnie and Pasquale Amato as Rance
in the Metropolitan 1910 production. The man "asleep" in
the middle is Enrico Caruso (Dick Johson).
(image by Wikipedia)

Musically La fanciulla del West is clearly Puccini at his best, but the libretto, which is based on  David Belasco’s play, “The Girl of the Golden West”, is not quite on the same level as those by Giacosa and Illica in previous operas. (Personally I have always had difficulties with a 19th century opera set in the Wild West, but that may of course be a prejudice).

Wonderful singing by Nina Stemme, but maybe she "could do with a touch of glamour".

The audience and the critics rightly praised this production by Marco Arturo Marelli, not least because of the stellar cast. Nina Stemme - widely considered to be the world’s reigning dramatic soprano - gave a powerful performance as Minnie, and Jonas Kaufmann - widely considered to be the leading dramatic tenor in the world - was equally convincing as Dick Johnson (Ramerrez).

Tenor Jonas Kaufmann as Dick Johnson.

However, I agree with Financial Times critic Richard Fairman, who in his otherwise extremely positive review added, that "Maybe Stemme’s tomboy portrayal of Minnie, not helped by a frizzy red wig and jeans, could do with a touch of glamour".

A strong performance by baritone Tomasz Koniezny.

Baritone Tomasz Konieczny also produced some fabulous singing in the third main role as the embittered sheriff  Rance. And, as always, the Staatsoper orchestra (whose members also constitute the Vienna Philharmonic) led by Generalmusikdirektor Franz Welser-Möst was a joy to listen to.

An enthusiastic audience at the Staatsoper.

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