Now Playing: Puccini’s “The Girl of the Golden West”

Written by Erica Hobbs

Michigan Opera Theatre continues its 2017 opera season with Giacamo Puccini’s The Girl of the Golden West, conducted by Stephen Lord in his first engagement since his appointment as Principal Conductor.

The rarely-performed work is considered to be among the best of the legendary composer. Set in the American West during the Gold Rush, the opera tells the story of Minnie, a gun-toting, saloon-owning Sunday school teacher, as she navigates a complicated love triangle with an outlaw and a sheriff.

“We are thrilled to offer this unique work for the first time to Detroit audiences,” MOT Founder and Artistic Director David DiChiera said. “The Girl of the Golden West offers both the beautiful music of Puccini, as well as the exciting setting of the American Old West.”

Known for its rich orchestration, The Girl of the Golden West highlights the talents of the Michigan Opera Theatre Orchestra while also featuring plot-driving arias that keep audiences on the edge of their seats. Its aria, “Quello che tacete,” inspired “Music of the Night” from Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Phantom of the Opera.

“People will cry at La bohème or Madama Butterfly, but I cry at The Girl of the Golden West,” Lord said. “The story is about redemption and overcoming adversity. These are themes everyone can relate to.”

The cast of The Girl of the Golden West includes Megan Miller and Melissa Citro as Minnie, Mark Delavan as the sheriff Jack Rance, and Rafael Davila and Jeff Gwaltney as the outlaw Dick Johnson. Mario Corradi returns to MOT as director.

The opera is sung in Italian with English supertitles projected above the stage. Music by Giacamo Puccini, Libretto by Guelfo Civinini and Carlo Zangarini

Detroit Opera House, 1526 Broadway, Grand Circus Park. Runs until April 9. 

Stephen Lord will lead the company’s artistic activities through the 2018-19 season. Grand Circus Magazine had the chance to sit down with Lord and ask few questions.

You were the Opera Theatre of St. Louis’s music director for 25 years before the MOT appointed you. What differences and similarities do you see between the two markets? 
Detroit and St. Louis have a lot in common. They both have world-class orchestras that have come out of difficult times stronger and healthier institutions. They are both avid sports towns. St. Louis, from the beginning of the opera company, has presented over 20 world premieres, and they gave all been greeted warmly by the public. This is an area we in Detroit have to explore more and we will.

You’ll appear at the podium for Girl of the Golden West. What drew you to this opera to open your tenure? 
When planning the 2016-17 season, David DiChiera asked me what I would like to direct, and I jumped at the opportunity to conduct The Girl of the Golden West. This is an opera I’ve never conducted before, but it’s one that has always moved me. The music is beautiful and the story is a classic love story that everyone can relate to. It really makes you feel something, and that is always what we aim to do. This is also the first time the work has been presented to Detroit audiences, so we are excited about that.

What kinds of works would you like to bring to Detroit in the next few years? 
The transition of artistic leadership is always a significant change for an arts organization. MOT is fortunate to have been founded and led by David DiChiera, who is an amazing man and an incredible artist in his own right. David has done great work bringing diverse productions to Detroit, and that is something I wish to continue. We plan to continue to offer a balanced season of classic favorites mixed with exciting new works as well as exciting new talent! We are also looking forward to finding more ways to showcase our wonderful MOT Orchestra.