Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
La fanciulla del West (1910; rev. 1912)
Lucio Gallo, Deborah Voigt, Marcello Giordani, Keith Miller, Dwayne
Croft, Ginger Costa-Jackson, Richard Bernstein
Metropolitan Opera Chorus, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra/Nicola Luisotti
Sound formats: PCM Stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Picture format: 1080i high definition / 16:9
Regions: All regions
Languages: English (including menu language)
Subtitles: Italian, German, English, French, Spanish, Chinese
rec. HD transmission, 8 January 2011
0734808 [143:00 + 21:00 (extras)]
In commemoration of the centenary of the premiere of Puccini’s La
fanciulla the Metropolitan Opera commissioned a new production
of the work, an appropriate decision by the company that first
staged the opera. The Met included this work in one of its HD
transmissions to movie houses, a live performance by an international
cast in the realistic production by Giancarlo de Monaco. This
Blu-ray release preserves that memorable broadcast in a format
that offers exceptional sound and visuals. The production also
calls to mind the kind of realistic staging La fanciulla
received at its premiere, with the result having an authentic
ring to it, while also using modern lighting and other technical
paraphernalia that combine to good effect in this performance.
The video takes the viewer immediately into the opera itself,
with a keen eye for the features of the production. It is a
Western in the best sense, with the sets conveying the sense
of the American West of the late nineteenth century through
the sets, props, and costumes. More than that, the staging makes
the frontier come alive, with the barroom brawl of the first
act blocked as if it were part of a filmed Western. The visual
dimension also captures some of the intimate scenes of the second
act, so that the solo numbers and duets are not lost on the
large stage of the Met, but cinematically scaled to bring the
viewer into the scenes. In the second act, the DVD seems like
an opera film, rather than a film of a staged opera, a detail
which translates well into the final act, with its rescue-opera
conclusion allowing for a larger-than-life conclusion. In this
sense the visual dimensions of this release convey the Met’s
production well and also support Puccini’s score, which
was, in turn, based on the composer’s response to Westerns,
which he experienced through silent films.
As a Blu-ray release the disc includes both outstanding sound
and also high-resolution graphics. The sound is also remarkable
for the minimal audience noise and other ambient sounds, with
a natural resonance possible through the sound formats on the
disc. A similar integrity occurs with the visuals, which work
well to capture the opera as film. In this regard, the close-ups
and angle shots from the HD transmission give more details than
audience members might see from their seats. This also demonstrates
the scope productions can have at the Met, with its large stage
and state-of-the-art technology. Such devices enhance the musicality
at the core of the performance, an important feature of this
At the center of this production Deborah Voigt portrays Minnie,
the Fanciulla of the title, with her characteristic aplomb.
She embodies the role, and Voigt’s involvement with the
role of Minnie is essential to the success of this performance.
This is a signature role for Voigt and she excels not only in
the solo parts given to her character, but also the various
ensembles. Ultimately the chemistry between Minnie and Dick
Johnson must be persuasive, since the dramatic pitch of the
libretto relies on the singers playing their roles to the hilt.
In this performance, Voigt and Giordano make their characters
believable, and they bring the work to a satisfying conclusion.
As Dick Johnson, Marcelo Giordani is appealing vocally and dramatically.
His interpretation gives a sense of his character’s inevitable
love for Minnie, and this emerges well in the second act, where
Giordani gives passionate voice to the familiar numbers in the
work. He is also convincing in the final act, where the Minnie
saves him as a modern-day deus ex machina who saves the
erstwhile outlaw in order for the work to arrive at its satisfying,
if not somewhat melodramatic conclusion.
Lucio Gallo offers a vivi portrayal of the lawman Jack Rance
whose determination precipitates the relationship between Minnie
and Dick. In this role Gallo’s sense of the text is useful
in bringing out the dramatic elements in the libretto. Gallor’s
delivery gives a sense of the text, which he supports well with
his reading of the musical line, especially in the second act,
where Rance must sustain his suspicion about Dick Johnson credibly.
The recording is laudable for its uniformly fine cast, which
conveys a good sense of ensemble, as evident in both the first
and final acts. In addition to the vocal qualities, the blocking
is effective, as is the direction of the action scenes. It is
rare to find the kinds of barroom brawls associated with westerns
in opera, and this adds to the overall effect of the production.
The stunts are part-and-parcel of film Westerns, and fit well
into the Met’s production. Such effects are not required
in the second act, where the staging contrastingly shifts to
more intimate shots. Yet the final scene makes use of the expansive
stage of the Met in evoking the street in a frontier settlement,
with a sense of depth that brings the larger-than-life production
At the core of all this is the solid musical direction of Nicola
Luisotti. Luisotti’s tempos follow the score well as they
also shape the line intelligibly. More than that, the balances
are engineered well to allow the voices to emerge distinctly
or, in instrumental passages, to shift attention to the accompaniment.
The details of the sound are readably audible in the Blu-ray
recording, which also gives a sense of immediacy of the video.
With these elements in place, it is easy to recommend the disc,
which offers an exemplary production of Puccini’s “western”
opera. It is an opportunity to hear Deborah Voigt in one of
her finest roles in the Met’s outstanding recent staging
of this work.
James L Zychowicz