17 June 2011 | TheLittleSongbird
The more I see or hear La Fanciulla del West, the more I like it. At first I did find the story standard with a long first act that takes time to set up and the characters somewhat implausible, and while Puccini's music is wonderful I have often heard the complaint that there aren't any or enough show-stopping arias, which to some extent is true.
While not my favourite Puccini opera by all means, I like Fanciulla a lot. The music does have moments of true Puccini while having echoes of Debussy and Strauss too, and I have seen a few productions such as the 1992 one at the Met where there are a lot of dangerous risks in the second act, and I for one underestimated how taxing the role of Minnie is.
I really liked this La Scala production along with the 1992 Met and 1982 Covent Garden productions. The costumes and sets are beautiful to watch and helped by the excellent in general video directing. The orchestra and conducting are also bang on target, and the card/poker scene is riveting.
The performances are great. Of the ensemble cast, Ashby and Sid stand out the most, and I was impressed with Nick too. Mara Zampieri is an impressive Minnie, she has a wonderful voice and cuts a great presence on stage. Placido Domingo is excellent too as Rammerrez/Dick Johnson, while Juan Pons as well as an intelligent acting ability and strong voice looks every bit the hardened cowboy Jack Rance should be as well as perhaps the most sympathetic of anybody in the role.
All in all, a fine production. 9/10 Bethany Cox