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La fanciulla del West (The Girl of the West) - Giacomo Puccini

Information about the opera La fanciulla del West by Giacomo Puccini, and the best recordings available on CD or DVD, or for download.

Puccini's Spaghetti Western has a flowing lyrical score, a magnificent final aria, and unusually for Puccini, a happy ending.


The opera opens in the Polka saloon, in a Californian mining camp in 1850. A group of gold miners are playing cards and discussing the reward offered for an escaped bandit, Ramerrez. Sherrif Jack Rance makes advances to Minnie, the bar's owner, but she rejects him and explains that she will only settle for true love. Then a stranger, Dick Johnson, enters the bar and Minnie falls in love with him, not realising he is the bandit. Because of his feelings for Minnie, he abandons his plans to raid the miners' gold.

Johnson and Minnie meet in Minnie's cabin, but she makes him hide when Rance arrives and proves Johnson is Ramerrez by showing her a photograph. When Rance has left, Ramerrez tries to explain to Minnie why he became a bandit, but she demands that he leave. Later gunfire is heard, and Ramerrez staggers back in, wounded. Minnie hides him in her loft, but Rance discovers him. Minnie suggests a game of draw poker to decide the bandit's fate, staking Ramerrez's life against her marriage to the sheriff. Minnie cheats and wins, and Rance is forced to admit defeat.

In a nearby forest Ramerrez, healed of his wounds, has been captured by the miners, who prepare to hang him. With the rope around his neck he begs them to tell Minnie that he escaped to freedom. However, Minnie arrives just in time, and holding the miners back with her revolver, begs her friends to spare his life. Their love for Minnie compels them to free Ramerrez, and he and Minnie ride off together to start a new life.

Recommended recordings on CD

Mehta/Neblett/Domingo (Deutsche Grammophon 419 640-2)

419 640-2

A well-conducted recording based on a strong cast, and winner of a 1978 Gramophone award.

Royal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus, Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra, conducted by Zubin Mehta, 1977.

Cast: Carol Neblett (Minnie), Plácido Domingo (Dick Johnson), Sherrill Milnes (Jack Rance), Eric Garrett (Nick), Jonathan Summers (Ashby).

Deutsche Grammophon 419 640-2

Capuana/Tebaldi/Monaco (Decca 421 595-2)

421 595-2

The most exciting performance, with excellent singing.

Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Orchestra, Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Chorus, conducted by Franco Capuana, 1958.

Cast: Renata Tebaldi (Minnie), Mario Del Monaco (Dick Johnson), Cornell MacNeil (Jack Rance), Piero de Palma (Nick), Silvio Maionica (Ashby).

Decca 421 595-2

Also included in the boxed set:
Tebaldi: Classic Puccini Recordings

Recommended recordings on DVD

Maazel/Zampieri/Domingo (Opus Arte OA LS3004 D)

OA LS3004 D

A superb production of Puccini's California gold rush romance, directed by Jonathan Miller, with an excellent cast.

Milan La Scala Orchestra, Milan La Scala Chorus, conducted by Lorin Maazel.

Cast: Mara Zampieri (Minnie), Plácido Domingo (Dick Johnson), Juan Pons (Jack Rance), Sergio Bertocchi (Nick).

Opus Arte OA LS3004 D

Also included in the boxed set:
The La Scala Opera Collection