MIDDLEBURY - The Metropolitan Opera's first world premiere, which took place exactly 100 years ago, was based on an unlikely source: a spaghetti western - "The Girl of the Golden West" - that composer Giacomo Puccini happened to see in New York in 1907.
Puccini was fascinated by the play, which concerns the trials of Minnie, the gun-toting owner of the Polka Saloon. He fashioned it into an opera titled "La Fanciulla del West," which was a big hit when it debuted at the Met in 1910. The cast was called out for multiple curtain calls after the first act, and the conductor himself was called on stage to take a bow.
The opera's success was short-lived. Puccini's other masterworks became staples of the operatic repertoire, but "Fanciulla" quickly slid into operatic oblivion.
The Met's new production has a powerhouse cast. Deborah Voigt stars as the independent Minnie, with tenor Marcello Giordani playing Dick Johnson. The reviews have been ecstatic. The Wall Street Journal wrote that "Puccini would be proud" and called the production "thrilling." Voigt, one of the world's greatest sopranos, has drawn universal praise for her shining voice and gutsy interpretation of the role.
Those who would like to learn more about this obscure opera can visit the Town Hall Theater the night before the broadcast, Thursday, Jan. 7, to hear Maestro Keith Lockhart analyze the piece. Maestro Lockhart is the world-renowned conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra. For information about this event, contact the THT Box office.
The live Jan. 8 broadcast of "La Fanciulla del West" begins at 1 p.m. Tickets are $22. An encore presentation will be shown the next day, Jan. 9. Tickets are $22, with a $10 ticket for students. Buy tickets online at www.townhalltheater.org., by calling (802) 382-9222, or at the THT Box Office.