Great voices in La Fanciulla del West in Oslo
Because of the great voices, it was again one of the great evenings at the new Operahouse in Oslo, when the Norwegian Opera & Ballet premiered the Giacomo Puccini opera The Girl from the Golden West, for the first time at The Norwegian Opera & Ballet in Oslo.
But it is not for the first time in Norway. Allready in 1921 Kirsten Flagstad was singing Minnie in a production of The Girl from the Golden West at Opera Comique, conducted by Piero Coppola, who Puccini him self choosed to conduct the opera many places, also in Oslo.
A line of outstanding guesting soloists was at this first evening singing and performing the three leading roles as Minnie, the bar hostes, who is close to being the only woman on stage except for her indian maid Wowkle. In the titel role Minnie, we enjoyed the wonderful italian soprano Paoletta Marrocu, who performed and sung the role as Minnie with a fantastic power and intensity. She gave the difficult titelrole so much reality and intensitivity that we believed in her in this fantastic story. Unfortunately she missed the top tunes two times in the very beginning, it sounded like she dont have these high tunes, but that we forgot very fast, and specially in the second act it was unbelievable what we experienced, together with her wonderful partner Dick Johnson. This famouse tenor role was 100 % perfect played, and wonderful sung by the brilliant tenor Ho-yoon Chung. It is my oppinnion that he is one of the best tenors I have heard for a long time in Europe. We are privilliged to have Ho-yoon Chung guesting in Oslo. I hope it will be many visits of Ho-yoon Chung also in other roles. As Jack Rance we enjoyed the famouse dramatic baryton Jason Stearns. He has it all. Voice, the look that we trusted in. Great.
Beside them we enjoyed Sigrid Ohlsson, as the indian women Wowkle, Bo Elley as her husband Billy Jackrabit, and all the other boys. Svein Erik Sagbråten as Nick, the barman. The troubadur in the first act was a great sounding Njål Sparbo. Henrik Engelsviken as Harry. Ketil Hugaas were great as Jim Larkens. Ole Jørgen Kristiansen powerfull as Sonora, Espen Langvik good looking as Sid, and Magne Fremmerlid powerfull as Ashby. Kjell Magnus Sandve was Trin and Carsten Stabell José Castro. Furtherone we enjoyed David Fielder, Rolf Conrad and Paul Kirby. A good masculin cowboy cast.
-Unfortunately many of the audience do only know Dick Johnsons famouse aria Quelle mio Credo from the last act. But this opera has much more, it starts beautifully with Njål Sparbo as Jack Wallace singing the troubadur aria, and continues with many other parts. Of course it sounds like Puccini. And that is great. The audience will experience that they will recognice a lot of the musical terms. And the orchestration is taken very good care of. The Norwegian Opera & Ballet Orchestra sounds beautiful under the direction of a new conductor in Oslo, Joseph Colaneri.
This production of The Girl from The Golden West is a co production from De Vlaamse Opera. Staged by Robert Carson, who has mowed the history un to a cinema in the 1940´s, which is the introduction and the glamoureuse end. As the opera is set in a small mining village in the Rockies where there are only two women, Minnie and Wowkle. The choir here is an all made affair with a more or less wild and masculine performance by the superb man´s chorus of the Norwegian Opera. But as we are working with a very updated international opera director Robert Carson, I was missing a small detail. When so many guys/cowboys are together, and only one (two) girls, we all do know that thera has been hidden and even openly gay relations, usually like 5-10% why dont Robert Carson show that?
In the scenography by Paul Steinberg I enjoyed the Rockie Background beautifully lightend by Peter van Praet and Robert Carson. This production didn´t use all the staging possibilityes, that we are prvilliged to have in Oslo, the deepnes of the stage, It was a bought production, which just was put on the stage. That is ok, but not as good as it could be. And the costumes for the cowboys/1940 gentlemens were boring.
The music is brilliant and full of well sounding details, a lot to sing for the leading and the minor roles and some great parts for the male choir. Musically very good. This is not an Annie get Your Gun, but there are many guns, which were not being used, only wawed around with, i need to smelle guns. I am happy that Paul Curran by presenting The Girl from the Golden West is stating that he will continue to present Puccini, I hope that he will manage to continue to present operaperformances in this remarkable high quality way.