A CurtainUp Review
La fanciulla del West (The Girl of the Golden West)
By Elyse Sommer
Belasco's play was fine fit for Puccini's penchant for the verismo style opera that was created around characters and situations drawn from every day life and he was said to consider this one of his major achievement. However, though its 1910 Metropolitan Opera premiere starred Enrico Caruso as Dick Johnson, a.k.a. a Mexican bandit named Ramirez, this California flavored Italian opera does not rival such Puccini super hits as Madame Butterfly and La Boheme. Probably, that's because it doesn't have any of those works' instantly recognizable arias even though there's much, especially in the second and third acts, that strongly echo La Boheme's lovers and their gorgeous solos and duets.
Impresario Michael Capasso of Manhattan's jewel box opera company, the Dicapo Theater, has mined the gun-toting Puccini work for every smidgen of gold. His richest asset is the terrific young soprano Irina Rindzaner as Minnie. The opera's only female character is the beloved mistress of Polka, a miners' tavern and gambling house who falls in love with a bar patron who pretends to be Dick Johnson but is really a bandit the miners are gung ho to have dancing at the end of a rope. Rindzaner has the vocal chops to do justice to this demanding role and the charm to bring off the tough, quick on the draw but love hungry young woman.
Brazilian tenor Marcus Aguiar makes a fine romantic opposite for Minnie. Though he seemed to strain a bit during the first act, by the time things move into the opera's best acts, his voice warmed up and his persona became more vivid. Baritone Zeffin Quinn Holis is an ideal choice as love-struck villain, Sheriff Jack Rance. There's plenty of rousing singing to showcase the ensemble and the 26-piece orchestra's expert musicianship.
The Dicapo's production staff has done wonders in transforming the stage into a woods-y two tier set that doubles as the barroom complete with swinging doors and as Minnie's cabin. The English Dicapo titles are clear and crisp and make following the action easy even if you don't read the program's detailed plot synopsis.
This is the final production of the current Dicapo season, but there's always another season to experience opera á la Dicapo. The first offering of the 2008-09 season should be of special interest to theater goers: It's Robert Ward's opera version of Arthur Miller's The Crucible.
The Playbill Broadway YearBook
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide