|Pistol-packin' Deborah is prepared to sing Minnie.|
Written for a premiere at the Metropolitan Opera, La Fanciulla adapts a David Belasco play set in the Old West, transporting the characters into an Italian opera. If this sounds like a bizarre Star Trek episode, you're not far off.
Although certain lines in the libretto ("Wisky per tutti!") don't translate well, this story makes for a marvelous Italian opera. It's so good that Andrew Lloyd Webber ripped whole chunks out of the score to write The Phantom of the Opera. Guess he found the music to be "really useful."
Minnie is a barmaid in a mining camp who acts as a maternal figure to the rough-hewn minors. She falls in love with the bandit Ramirrez in his "civilian" identity of Dick Johnson. When Johnson/Ramirrez is wounded by the sherrif Jack Rance, Minnie must decide whether or not to save him from the gallows. The title role is one of the most difficult female leads in the Italian repertory, made more difficult by the fact that while Minnie is on stage for almost all of the action, she does not get her own aria.
Ms. Voigt has made this role a specialty in recent years. It lies right in her vocal range, requiring a powerful, flexible soprano instrument that can manage the lyric outpourings and still have steel underneath for the heroic scenes in the last act.
La Fanciulla is due for a New York revival at the Met next season, with performances starting December 6. The revival stars Deborah Voigt and tenor Marcello Giordani. Ms. Voigt has also been engaged to sing upcoming performances at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.