A Strong Dame Wins the West!
December 19, 2017
Spaghetti Western fans are in for a treat next month when Virginia Opera transforms the Concert Hall into the Polka Dot Saloon for Puccini’s The Girl of the Golden West. Though composed more than 50 years before A Fistful of Dollars, Puccini’s tale of love during the California Gold Rush is replete with jealousy, betrayal, and redemption. The “girl” in The Girl of the Golden West, Minnie, is especially notable, for she is unlike the typical Puccini heroine.
The usual Puccini female protagonist is often a doomed damsel who dies tragically at the opera’s climax, but Minnie is no fragile flower. She makes this clear in the opening when she shoots her rifle to break up a brawl in the saloon she operates. Unlike Mimí from La bohème or Madama Butterfly, this Puccini heroine boldly takes charge of her own fate. After thwarting the fight and giving the patrons a Bible lesson, one bar regular tells Minnie he wants her to be his wife and promises to take care of her. But Minnie can take care of herself, thank you very much, and she tells him that she seeks “true love” instead.
Minnie finds true love in a mysterious stranger, Dick Johnson, who turns out to be a bandit wanted by the law. During their love duet, she tells him about her poor upbringing and how she struck out on her own, settled in California, and started her own business. “If I'd been taught more,” Minnie sings, “'what mightn't I have been? Think of it.”
Minnie learned enough, however, to go full-throttle after what she wants in life—to live happily-ever-after with her true love. While Johnson nearly bleeds to death, Minnie cleverly saves his life during a tense game of poker. But before the two love birds can ride off into the sunset together, Minnie must rescue Johnson from his death one more time! Just like in the opening, Minnie brandishes her rifle, but it’s her good deeds and kindness that win the day.
Virginia Opera’s The Girl of the Golden West
Saturday, December 2 at 8 p.m.
Sunday, December 3 at 2 p.m.
Tickets and information