Sometimes thought of as a connoisseurs’ opera — and rated by the composer himself as his greatest work — La fanciulla del West stands somewhat apart from the main thrust of Puccini’s output. That is not simply because of its non-existent body-count, though of course Puccini usually killed off his sopranos, and here no one dies (doubly odd for a Western); nor because of the feminine ‘softness’ that prevails in most of his operas, in contrast to the unrelentingly masculine atmosphere here. On closer inspection, Fanciulla is actually very central to his thinking, so much so that (for reasons that are not easy to fathom) Puccini dubbed it his ‘second Bohème’
For one thing, there’s the exotic location — gold rush California was as far away from Italy as old Peking or Nagasaki. As in Turandot or Madama Butterfly, he makes use of folk tunes evoking the locale (American music of course also featured in Butterfly). And for all the religious trappings of Tosca or Suor Angelica, Fanciulla is the opera that shows most clearly Puccini’s Catholic upbringing, for the Christian concept of redemption is strongest here. If there is perhaps nothing overtly Catholic about Minnie herself, or her Bible reading scene, it is interesting that Puccini himself chose the text (from Psalm 51) and gave it more prominence than it has in the Belasco play (the second Belasco he set, after Butterfly) from which the opera is drawn.
Fanciulla is certainly Puccini’s most sophisticated score, and his orchestration (calling for big resources in its full version) shows an awareness of Debussy. It is harmonically advanced, too, and sophisticated in non-musical ways as well. More than any of his other operas, it needs singing-actors—and this despite the great stars, including Emmy Destinn and Enrico Caruso, who created it at its premiere at New York’s Metropolitan Opera in 1910.
Previously at WFO: Répétiteur (Margherita, Foroni, 2017); Music Director (Rigoletto ShortWork, Donizetti, 2017).
Previous engagements: Répétiteur and continuo (Le donne vendicate, Piccinni, Festival della Valle d’Itria), Répétiteur (Don Pasquale, Donizetti, Teatro Comunale Bologna), Répétiteur (La traviata, Verdi, Festival Verdi di Parma).
Forthcoming engagements: Répétiteur and continuist (Il trionfo dell’onore, Scarlatti, Festival della Valle d’Itria).
Previous engagements: Carlotta Vance (Dinner at Eight, Bolcom, Minnesota Opera); Lady Macbeth (Macbeth, Verdi, New Orleans Opera); Eleanor (The Manchurian Candidate, Kevin Puts, Austin Lyric Opera).
Stage & Costume Designer
Angela Giulia Toso
Previously at WFO: Set Designer Assistant (Risurrezione, Alfano, 2017)
Previous engagements: Costume Designer (La bohème, Puccini, Firenze Opera/ Maggio Musicale Fiorentino), Costume Designer Assistant (Festival International d’art lyrique d’Aix en Provence), Set and Costume Designer Assistant (Festival Internacional de Ballet de Cali, Colombia).
Previous engagements: Mimì (La bohème, Puccini, Teatro Verdi – Trieste), Tosca (Tosca, Puccini, Maribor Slovene National Theatre), Margherita (Mefistofele, Boito, Teatro Verdi – Pisa)
Forthcoming engagements: Liù (Turandot, Puccini, Osaka Festival Hall), Leonora (Il trovatore, Verdi, Opera in Piazza Festival).
Previous engagements: Valentin (Faust, Gounod, Teatro Luciano Pavarotti Modena), Marcello/Schaunard (La bohème, Puccini, Opera di Firenze, Edinburgh Opera Festival), Blasio (La scuola de’ gelosi, Salieri, Opera di Firenze, Teatro Salieri Legnago).
Forthcoming engagements: Giorgio Germont (La traviata, Verdi, Teatro Municipale Piacenza).
Previously at WFO: Il Cancelliere di Rudenz (Maria de Rudenz, Donizetti, 2016).
Previous engagements: Chorus (Un ballo in maschera/Roméo et Juliette, Verdi/Gounod, Grange Park Opera), The Officer (Ariadne auf Naxos, Strauss, Scottish Opera), Rodolfo (La bohème, Puccini, Rye Arts Festival).
José de Eça
Previous engagements: Don Curzio (Le nozze di Figaro, Mozart, Festival Internacional de Música de Gaia), Monostatos (Die Zauberflöte, Mozart, Festival Internacional de Música de Gaia).
Previously at WFO: Court Usher (Rigoletto ShortWork, Verdi, 2017).
Previous engagements: Christian Weiss (The Great Passion, James Runcie, Dartington International Festival), Schaunard (La bohème, Puccini, Clonter Opera), Valens (Theodora, Handel, Britten-Pears YAP).
Chase Henry Hopkins
Previously at WFO: Dormont (La scala di seta ShortWork, Rossini, 2017).
Previous engagements: Septimius (Theodora, Handel, Britten Pears Young Artist Programme), Recital Soloist (Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Britten Pears Young Artist Programme), Oronte (Alcina, Handel, Two Moors Festival).
Previous engagements: Le Doyen de la Faculte (Cendrillon, Massenet, RNCM Opera), Fifth Burgess & Chorus (Peter Grimes, Britten, Bergen Nasjonale Opera), First Prisoner (Fidelio, Beethoven, BBC Proms & BBC Philharmonic Orchestra).
Previous engagements: Tiridate (Radamisto, Handel, Guildhall School of Music and Drama), Vaudemont (Iolanta, Tchaikovsky,cGuildhall School of Music and Drama), Vassili (Mavra, Stravinsky, Guildhall School of Music and Drama).
Forthcoming engagements: Turiddu (Cavalleria rusticana, Mascagni, Concert Performance), Tenor Soloist (A Child of Our Time, Tippett, Diversity Choir).
Rene Bloice Sanders
Previous engagements: Eugene Onegin (Eugene Onegin, Tchaikovsky, Opera South East), Marcello (La bohème, Puccini, The Merry Opera Company), Figaro (Il barbiere di Siviglia, Rossini, The Mananan Opera Festival).
Previously at WFO: Lucilla (La scala di seta ShortWork, Rossini, 2017), La rossa (Risurrezione, Alfano, 2017).
Previous engagements: Dorabella (Così fan tutte, Mozart, Kammeroper Schloss Rheinsberg), Rosina (Il barbiere di Siviglia, Rossini, Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino), Carmen (Carmen, Bizet, Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino).
Previous engagements: Tonio and Alfio (cover) (I Pagliacci, Leoncavallo, Kentish Opera), Eugene Onegin (Eugene Onegin, Tchaikovsky, Serenata Singers, Cardiff), Silvio (I Pagliacci, Leoncavallo, Les Amis du Festival de Musique, Provence)
Forthcoming engagements: Pietro Fleville (Andrea Chénier, Giordano, Midsummer Opera).
Previous engagements: Belcore (L’elisir d’amore, Donizetti, Festival Opera – Circolo, Italy), Marte (Parnasso in Festa, Händel, Händel-Festspiele Halle/Lautten Compagney), Marcello (La bohème, Puccini, Teatro Jovellanos, Gijón, Spain).
Forthcoming engagements: Papageno (Die Zauberflöte arrangement for children, Mozart, Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona), Christus (St John Passion, Bach, Nationaal Symfonisch Kamerorkest, The Netherlands), Fronzo (Le nozze in sogno, Cesti, Fondation Royaumont, Christophe Rousset).
The Pony Express Rider
Previous engagements: Diener (Capriccio, Strauss, Garsington Opera), Young Man/Phoebus (The Day After, Jonathan Dove, RCS Opera), Harlequin (Der Kaiser Von Atlantis, Viktor Ullman, RSC Opera).
Forthcoming engagements: Malcolm (Macbeth, Verdi, English Touring Opera).