Frank, Richard, and I saw *La Fanciulla del West* at the Met on 10/17/18. I had no previous experience with this opera and really no familiarity with it, but got tickets because tenor Jonas Kaufmann was making his long-awaited return to the Met after a few years away. It was worth the wait!
*Fanciulla* was written for the Met, had its premiere in 1910 with a starry cast led by Enrico Caruso and Emmy Destinn, conducted by Arturo Toscanini. This was the Met's first world premiere, and it was a perfect choice - - it's a western, set in the wild west. Puccini saw the David Belsaco play *The Girl of the Golden West* when he was in New York supervising their first production of *Madama Butterfly,* also based on a Belasco play. He liked the exotic (for him) setting and felt that it had the dramatic elements that he needed.
The opera was delightful and charming, but a little strange. It has the thrust and the warmth that you expect from Puccini, but it has a few experimental moments that don't really work for me, lots of imitations of Debussy. A supporting character at the start of the third act has a longish section on a whole tone scale (a Debussy specialty) that didn't feel integrated or necessarily convincing. I want to hear Puccini being Puccini!
Marco Armiliato was the conductor, he had the right mixture of swagger and tenderness that the piece needs, and of course the orchestra sounded fantastic. The production is from 1991, originally directed by Giancarlo del Monaco, staged by Gregory Keller. It's a traditional production, lovely to look at, it presents the story in an effective way.
Baritone Željko Lučić was Jack Rance, the sheriff. This was the third or fourth time that I've heard him at the Met and I'm starting to get the feeling that I just don't like his voice. He knows what he's doing, he gives a good performance, and there are moments of beauty and/or incisive drama, but his voice just sounds a little colorless to me. Sorry, Željko.
Eva-Maria Westbroek was Minnie, practically the only woman onstage (this show is a real sausage party). Westbroek is a real treasure and Richard and I have heard her in every one of her Met roles (I've listed them below). It's a tricky part - - there are lots of diva moments, but also long stretches in the middle voice against a thick orchestration, which is hard work and not particularly gratifying. She had a couple of isolated problems with high notes, but recovered from them beautifully. That's the mark of a real artist, to have a little skirmish and then brush yourself off and keep on singin'.
Oh, Jonas Kaufmann! Thank you for coming back! He's one of the hottest tenors around, and I use that term for its double meaning: he's very much in demand, definitely an A list tenor, and he is (as my mother would say) easy on the eyes. He's known as Yummy Jonas on parterre.com, the opera queen website I used to read daily (I'm making other choices these days). He sang a lot at the Met up to a few years ago, when he announced that he'd be basing his career in Europe, where he could see more of his school-age children. I guess I can't stand in the way of that, can I. Richard and I saw him many times at the Met, I've listed his roles below, too.
He was unbelievable. Totally secure, astonishing musicianship, and the extra element of him seeming to ENJOY it. Like he was hanging ten on those high notes. Jonas, please don't ever go away so long!
2011: Sieglinde in *Die Walküre*
2013: title role in *Francesca da Rimini*
2014: title role in *Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk*
2015: Santuzza in *Cavalleria Rusticana*
2015: Elisabeth in *Tannhäuser*
2010: Cavaradossi in *Tosca*
2011: recital on the Met stage
2011: Siegmund in *Die Walküre*
2011: title role in *Faust*
2013: title role in *Parsifal*
2014: title role in *Werther*