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date: 22 October 2019

Fanciulla del West, La (‘The Girl of the West’ [The Girl of the Golden West])locked

  • Julian Budden

Extract

(‘The Girl of the West’ [The Girl of the Golden West])

Opera in three acts by Giacomo Puccini to a libretto by Guelfo Civinini and Carlo Zangarini after David Belasco’s play The Girl of the Golden West; New York, Metropolitan Opera House, 10 December 1910.

Early in 1907, during his first visit to New York for the Metropolitan premières of Manon Lescaut and Madama Butterfly, Puccini saw three of Belasco’s plays performed on Broadway, among them The Girl of the Golden West. He was not enthusiastic. ‘I like the ambience of the West’, he wrote to Tito Ricordi (ii), ‘but in all the “pièces” I’ve seen I’ve found only a few scenes here and there. Never a simple thread, all muddle and at times bad taste and old hat’. However, a seed had been sown; and when at the end of May Puccini went to London, his friend Sybil Seligman urged him to consider Belasco’s drama, of which she procured him an Italian translation. By July Puccini was firmly decided. He wrote to his publisher asking him to obtain the rights as well as the author’s permission to make certain changes to the action (these would amount to transferring the bible-class from the third act to the first and amalgamating Acts 3 and 4, where the setting would be a Californian forest). Of his previous librettists, Giacosa was dead and Illica fully engaged on a libretto about Marie Antoinette (for which Puccini had contracted but which he never set). Tito Ricordi indicated Carlo Zangarini as the ideal collaborator, especially since his mother was American. In August the contracts were signed for what Puccini foretold would prove ‘a second ...

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