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Student Dress  Rehearsal   Wednesday,  July  3,  9:30  a.m.      

Castleton Festival  Theatre   Castleton  Farms    


Please feel free to reproduce any of these pages for use in the classroom

THE STUDENT OPERA EXPERIENCE: PART ONE Preparation and follow-up activities The more students are prepared for this experience, the more they will get out of it. Knowing the story, the life and times of the composer and the music is very important to make their opera experience a sensational one!

Before the Opera Teachers should review the study guide and all of the suggested activities and discussions, to decide which ones students will be engaged with. Some of the activities/discussions should be started prior to seeing the opera. Preparing students ahead of time gives them a chance to view the opera within the context of what they will be working on after i.e. history, reviewing, character studies, discussions, etc. • Read the enclosed The Girl of the Golden West synopsis, which provides a background and helps familiarize students and teachers with the story. • Click "watch video" at the Education tab on the Castleton web site to watch excerpts described under Part 3, #3 • Read the history of the opera, composer and director, and familiarize your group with opera terms (all items in the guide can be reproduced). • Familiarize students with the characters and their opera voice types (i.e. soprano, bass, and tenor) so that students can identify which is which during the opera. • Discuss the characters and plot, and engage students in discussion around the suggested themes. • You may wish to assign students to write a review on the opera – a guideline for writing reviews is included in this study guide. • You may assign some students to report on singing, characters, orchestra, costumes, scenery etc. after the dress rehearsal. • Make sure that meeting places and times are clear at the Festival Theatre. • Review the audience expectations section.

During the Opera When you are seated, you may be able to see the orchestra tuning their instruments in the orchestra pit. When the house lights dim, it’s time to: • Turn off all cell phones, iPods, and other electronic devices. The use of cameras or recording devices is strictly forbidden. • Think about what makes a good audience member. • Keep movement and voices down to a minimum as this is a live dress rehearsal performance. • Keep food and drinks outside of the auditorium – the Festival Theatre has great acoustics so every sound can be heard in the theatre. • After the curtain goes down and the lights go up, the intermission (20 minutes) begins. This is the time to talk (in the Theatre Foyer) and use the bathroom. • It is permissible to applaud after an aria or ensemble (if you liked it). • Be silent if the performance has to stop for a few moments (this is a performance, but also a working rehearsal so it may be necessary to stop at times). • If you must use the washroom during the performance, please be accompanied by an adult supervisor. The ushers will let you in again but you will have to wait until there is an appropriate break in the opera. Many times this is not until intermission. • Applaud the cast as they take their bows after the performance. If you feel one person did an exceptional job, it is permissible to shout “Bravo!” for a man, “Brava!” for a woman, and “Bravi!” for the whole performance (most people stick to “Bravo!”).

1. Write a Review or Critique of the performance One of the best ways to encourage critical thinking of a performing arts production is to encourage students’ honesty and draw out detailed opinions. A productive evaluation session - spoken, written, visual or dramatized - should follow this basic ‘how-to’ outline below. On the internet, students can find many reviews of The Girl of the Golden West from other opera companies’ performances to use as a guideline or example. Guidelines for writing a review: When writing a theatre review you must remember four main components: the acting, the singing, the technical, the orchestra, and the overall view. The acting and singing are probably the most important aspects of the opera. It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the opera and its characters before you go see it. Make sure you know all of the characters’ names and the singers who are playing them; the study guide or the Castleton Festival website is an ideal place in which to find all this information. Ask yourself if the actors seemed to understand what they were singing. Did they bring life to the music? Could you see and hear the emotion while they sang? Did they interact well with others on stage? Did any particular performer stand out to you? Why? Also look to see if each singer is connecting well with his/her character. (However, keep in mind that everyone has a very unique style of acting and maybe even comment on that.) How well are they giving and taking focus? The next aspect to look at is the technical. This includes everything from the lights and sound to the costumes and make-up. It has been said that if the technical aspect of the performance becomes noticeable, then it is not effective. Keep in mind that the lights, sound, make-up, etc. are there to enhance the performance, not to be the main focus. (But as the reviewer, you should be looking for it.) For instance, the lights should be respective to the time of day, the season and so on. Also, it should not cast any shadows on the singers or performers faces. The appeal of the music is often a matter of opinion because everyone likes different kinds of music; however, it should accent the style and format of the performance. The costumes and set should portray the time period and part of each character’s personality. The make-up should do the same, but keep a look out for shadows and lines on the face. All these things are very important to the performance of the show. Familiarizing yourself with the opera before you go will assist with making these decisions. So in conclusion, remember the singing and acting, the technical, and the overall view, and you’ll have written a successful theatre review. Oh, and one more thing: don’t ever lie so as not to hurt someone’s feelings. Constructive criticism can be helpful. Keep all these things in mind when writing your review and it will be great. Have fun!

2. Engage students in meaningful discussions using the following points of departure: • In what ways does opera differ from a musical? How is it similar? • What types of themes are found in operas written in the early 20th century? • What themes in The Girl of the Golden West are still relevant today?

3. Belasco project: Research David Belasco and answer the following questions: • Why was Belasco so famous when he was alive and writing plays? What was he doing that everybody liked so much? Why was he so popular back then?

4. Be a costume designer Read the synopsis and the character list in Part 3. Imagine what their costumes might look like. For each character, design a costume, keeping in mind the opera takes place between 1848–1855.

5. Research Giacomo Puccini, the composer of The Girl of the Golden West. • Why was he a remarkable composer? What was his significance to the Italian people at the time?

6. Explore Castleton Festival’s website to find out more about The Girl of the Golden West and Castleton Festival.

THE STUDENT OPERA EXPERIENCE: PART TWO Teacher resource materials 1. Review example: Lyric Opera of Chicago presents The Girl of the Golden West Sheriffs! Bandits! Damsels! Passion! What’s not to love? Composed by Giacomo Puccini Libretto by Carlo Zangarini and Guelfo Civini Directed by Vincent Liotta Reviewed by K.D. Hopkins Chicago Theatre Beat I love a good Western. That may come as a surprise to some but maybe more of a surprise is the idea of a great Western opera – in Italian. Giacomo Puccini’s fascination with the American West is gloriously displayed in the Lyric Opera production of La Fanciulla Del West (or The Girl Of The Golden West). My dad used to call Westerns ‘horse operas’ because of all of the drama, brawling, greed, and damsels in distress. Luckily for us, Puccini’s Minnie is no mere damsel-in-distress when embodied by the fabulous soprano Deborah Voight. Ms. Voight emanates strength with a healthy dose of ‘don’t mess with me’, making one of the great entrances in an opera – shooting off two rounds from her pistol to break up a fracas at the Polka saloon. Puccini’s interest in the “Wild West” was piqued by the European tours of the Buffalo Bill Western shows that included sharpshooter Annie Oakley. The deal was sealed, then, when – on a visit to New York – Puccini attended the Broadway play Girl of the Golden West by David Belasco. Ms. Voight’s Minnie has just enough brass and fire to play with the boys and fend off the lascivious charm of the sheriff Jack Rance, played by baritone Marco Vratogna. Mr. Vratogna’s baritone is sexy and sinister. Rance is a sheriff and a gambler who thinks he has a direct line on Minnie’s virtue. Vratogna channels the great Yul Brynner with a shaved head and piercing intense gaze. I wondered if Brynner had modeled his Gunslinger on Jack Rance in the 1973 science fiction Western “Westworld”. In every Western there must be an outlaw, especially if the bad guy is a smoldering misunderstood one. Enter the great tenor Marcello Giordani as Ramerrez aka Dick Johnson the hunted leader of a murderous gang of thieves out to steal the gold from this mining backwater. Mr. Giordani has a gorgeous voice with velvety tones that never border on the strident or maudlin. He is a wonderful counterpoint to Ms. Voight’s powerful and clear soprano. Their acting is top notch in portraying two thunderstruck lovers. Giordani is quite entrancing and smoldering as her true love enraptured at the thought of one kiss from Minnie. Mr. Vratogna (Sheriff Rance) and Ms. Voight have an excellent chemistry as well. Sheriff Rance’s intentions are less than honorable. He has a wife and Minnie is more of a trophy to be captured. There is a tense scene with Rance trying to force himself on Minnie and Ms. Voight’s portrayal is explosive in rebuffing him. The supporting cast of “Fanciulla” is a combination of wonderful voices and fine acting. David Cangelosi is excellent as Nick the Polka bartender. He is a perfect comic relief as he pits the miners against one another in thinking they are at the top of the list for Minnie’s affections. Craig Irvin has a beautiful voice and excellent stage presence as Ashby the Wells Fargo man. I loved the portrayal of Sonora by the baritone Daniel Sutin. He has an exceptionally expressive visage to accompany the voice. Puccini was my first exposure to opera with a Lyric production of La Boheme back in the 1970’s. His sense of theatre and drama are incomparable. He composed the lush and sweeping tragedies Tosca and Madama Butterfly. He consistently wrote wonderful roles for women in particular. In “Fanciulla”, the role of Minnie is the only major female among at least forty men on the stage. It’s a powerhouse role to be undertaken by only the best and that is Deborah Voight. In my opinion, Puccini is the greatest theatrical composer history in history, and many have given homage or outright plagiarized his work. The Puccini estate sued Andrew Lloyd Webber over blatant lifts from “Fanciulla” in his version of The Phantom of The Opera – and the estate basically won, as Webber settled out of court. I also feel that Gene de Paul and Johnny Mercer owe a debt to Puccini for the Seven Brides for Seven Brothers score as well. Puccini’s rich and sweeping washes of sound are perfect for the Technicolor epics of John Ford and Stanley Donen, and – had Puccini he lived further into the 20th century – he may have been witness to his influence on the American film soundtrack in Douglas Sirk melodramas and film noir classics.

The conductor for the evening was Sir Andrew Davis, who led the orchestra with command and joyful gusto. He has such joy for the music and that translates into an overall beautiful production. The Lyric is also gifted with the legendary Harold Prince as the original producer of “Fanciulla” in 1978 in Chicago. The director Vincent Liotta previously worked with Mr. Prince and has once again directed an excellent production. Take the time to get acquainted with the treasure that is Chicago’s Lyric Opera. This is theatre and music that has persevered because of its beauty and soul-touching quality. It’s a chance to get dressed nice, put on your Sunday manners, and sit in one of the world’s great opera houses. Brava! Bravo! Te amo Maestro Puccini!

2. The Belasco Project: Belasco and Puccini You may wish to have students research and compare the David Belasco's 1905 play, The Girl of the Golden West to the 1938 "western" movie version starring Jeannette Macdonald and Nelson Eddy and then to Puccini's 1910 opera. The Girl of the Golden West is a theatrical play written, produced and directed by David Belasco and later made into an opera, La Fanciulla del West (The Girl of the Golden West), by Puccini. The four-act melodrama set in the California Gold Rush opened at the old Belasco Theatre in New York on November 14, 1905 and ran for 224 performances. Blanche Bates originated the role of The Girl, Robert C. Hilliard played Dick Johnson, and Frank Keenan played Jack Rance. Bates was joined by Charles Millward and Cuyler Hastings for two-week Broadway runs in 1907 and 1908. William Furst composed the play's incidental music. The play toured throughout the US for several years, and was made into four films, in 1915, 1923, 1930 and 1938. Belasco wrote a novel based on the play in 1911 In 1907 the Metropolitan Opera gave the U.S. premiere of Madama Butterfly and Puccini was in attendance for the opening night performance. He was beginning to look for subject material for his next opera, but after the fiasco that surrounded the debut of Butterfly in Milan, he was hesitant to commit to a subject. While in New York, Puccini was able to see David Belasco’s play The Girl of the Golden West. Belasco had provided the material for Butterfly, so Puccini was eager to see another of his works. After seeing the play in New York, Puccini returned to London where he found an Italian translation. He read the play and contacted Belasco about transferring it to an operatic form. By the time Puccini had returned to Italy, he and Belasco had agreed to terms. In 1908 Puccini began work with his librettist on the project, Carlo Zangarini. While he did good work, Puccini felt that perhaps another point of view was needed and suggested Guelfo Civini. Zangarini would have none of it and even threatened to sue Puccini if Civini was brought on. Somehow they were able to resolve the differences and both librettists worked with Puccini. All three men helped to shape the action of the opera, Puccini wanted to make certain changes to the action of the play. He wished to move the bible-class from the third act to the first act and combine the third and fourth act, setting it in the Californian forest. He also suggested the manhunt for Johnson and Minnie’s final (and surprisingly successful) plea for Johnson’s life. The three continued to work through June 1910 when the Metropolitan Opera agreed that the debut of The Girl of the Gold West should occur on American soil. In November, Puccini travelled to New York to begin rehearsals. Belasco himself was present at the rehearsals to make sure the cast looked and behaved like Americans. There would be no “mugging and wild gesticulating” from the cast, he wanted the miners to have their hands in their pockets and look casual. The cast featured Emmy Destinn as Minnie, Enrico Caruso as Dick Johnson and Pasquale Amato as Jack Rance. The production was conducted by Toscanini. Puccini could not be more pleased with the production and looked forward to the opening night performance. On December 10, 1910 the production finally opened. The audience was filled with diplomats, generals, and leaders of high society. The performance was an uncontested triumph with 47 curtain calls and a silver wreath presented to Puccini. The critics, on the other hand, felt that the music had no real appeal and was not as original as his other works. After well received premieres in London, Rome, and Paris, the opera failed to enter the general repertory. It was not until late in the century that it even was reviewed in a worthy light. In 2010 the piece celebrated the 100th Anniversary of its debut and the Metropolitan Opera presented it in celebration.

3. Be a costume designer Costume designers have an important role in the creation of a new opera. If it is a period piece, they will do extensive research into the time and place that the opera takes place, and make decisions about the characters clothing based on

that research. They will then do a sketch of each and every characters’ costume, with basic colors often in pencil crayon or watercolor to give the wardrobe team as a visual plan to work with. They will also often include scraps of fabric with the sketches to give the wardrobe team further information with which to work with.

4. Giacomo Puccini - Composer of The Girl of the Golden West Full Name: Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini Dates: December 22, 1858 – November 29, 1924 Nationality: Born in Lucca, Italy. Died in Brussels, Belgium. Life and Career Giacomo Puccini was born into a long line of talented musicians. Giacomo’s great-great grandfather had held the position of choirmaster and organist at the Cathedral of San Martino. This position would be held by four consecutive generations of Puccini men, including Puccini’s father. As a master of counterpoint, which is a musical form that incorporates two simultaneous melody lines, Giacomo’s father helped him to establish a firm knowledge of music and composition. At the age of fourteen, Giacomo was already an accomplished organist, performing in his hometown of Lucca. It would not be until the age of twenty-two that Giacomo would finally begin to receive a formal education in music. In 1880, Giacomo entered the Milan Conservatory, but only with the assistance of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Puccini was fortunate in that he was exposed to a variety of theatrical styles, including opera and spoken drama in his hometown of Lucca, Italy. It is these experiences at the theatre that planted the ideas for stories that Puccini would later shape into some of his most famous operas. It was not long after his entrance into the Milan Conservatory that Puccini’s interest in opera began to materialize. At the age of twenty-six, Puccini’s first opera, Le Villi, premiered. This opera caught the attention of publisher Giulio Ricordi, who funded Puccini’s second opera, Edgar, in 1889. This relationship between Puccini and Ricordi would last until Ricordi’s death in 1912. Despite moderate attention paid to his first two operas, Puccini’s reputation as a composer did not begin to develop until his third opera, Manon Lescaut in 1893. While some composers are only remembered for one great masterpiece, Puccini’s status as a composer arose out of three separate operas. Known as Puccini’s “Big Three,” these operas are La bohème (1896), Tosca (1900), and Madama Butterfly (1904). Through the utilization of verismo, or storylines that focus on the rough and gritty aspects of common life, Puccini was able to infuse raw emotion into his characters, as well as the music they sing. This has appealed to countless generations of audiences as Puccini’s characters are completely relatable in that they are passionate, flawed, and ultimately human. In 1924, Giacomo Puccini was diagnosed with cancer of the throat. He died later that year in Brussels, Belgium. There are disputes as to the cause of Puccini’s death, but most sources believe that he died of a heart attack during an emergency surgical treatment for the cancer. His final opera, Turandot was left unfinished at the time of his death. The last two scenes of the opera were finished by composer, Franco Alfano. Other Notable Works Tosca (1900) - libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica, based on the play by Victorien Sardou Madama Butterfly (1904) – libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica, based on a story by John Luther Long Turandot (1926) – libretto by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni, based on the play by Carlo Gozzi Of Further Interest Puccini’s operas are marked with beautiful, sensuous melodies, colorful harmonies and brilliant orchestration. As Verdi favored monumental, sweeping arias, Puccini preferred shorter arias with memorable melodies in order to succinctly propel the drama. Puccini had a special proclivity for his female characters, which he portrayed with glorious melody lines and dramatic sensibility. Heartbreaking tragedy befalls many of his heroines, including Tosca, Butterfly, and Liù of Turandot. A wealthy opera fan from New York, in exchange for a handwritten, autographed copy of “Musetta’s Waltz” (La bohème), agreed to buy Puccini an extremely expensive motorboat and have it sent all the way to Italy. Puccini was known for being a reckless driver and was involved in several car crashes. Two years after his death, Puccini’s remains were interred at his house at Torre del Lago. After his wife’s death in 1930, Puccini’s house was turned into a museum.

THE STUDENT OPERA EXPERIENCE: PART THREE Cast, Character, Synopsis, Opera Background and Terminology Conductor - Lorin Maazel Stage Director - Giandomenico


1. The Girl of the Golden West characters M innie - Ekaterina M etlova, Soprano Jack Rance - Paul LaRosa, Baritone

Dick Johnson – Jonathan Burton, Tenor

Nick – Kirk Dougherty, Tenor

2. The Girl of the Golden West synopsis Approximate Running Time: 190 Minutes. Music by Giacomo Puccini, Libretto by Guelfo Civinini and Carlo Zangarini, based on the play The Girl of the Golden West by David Belasco. World premiere: December 10, 1910, Metropolitan Opera, conducted by Arturo Toscanini SYNOPSIS: Who doesn’t love a good Western? A handsome outlaw in disguise, the sheriff in hot pursuit, and a garter-snapping, pistol-packing, poker-playing heroine who knows when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em to save the man she loves...Fascinated by the Californian Gold Rush, Puccini was inspired by David Belasco’s play about Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. But far beyond rough-and-tumble characters, soaring arias, and a harmonically sumptuous score, La Fanciulla del West is one of Puccini's most musically enigmatic, elusive and psychologically insightful operas. The central personality of the story, Minnie, reveals herself as a woman both homesick for and ashamed of her humble origins. Over her inner vulnerability she has constructed a steely shell, ever ready with a shotgun to protect herself and the gold entrusted to her for safekeeping by her ragtag group of miners. Her character is complex and contradictory, yet believable. The only female character in the opera (with the exception of the cameo role of the native Indian Wowkle), she is the surrogate mother to and schoolmistress of a colorful collection of gold-diggers. Owner of the Polka Saloon where the men gather to drink, gamble, gossip and fight, Minnie is a scripture-reading innocent, admired and respected by everybody. Into this environment comes Dick Johnson, in reality Ramirez, a bandit on the run. Despite her better instincts, Minnie falls for him, much to the annoyance of Jack Rance the sheriff, who fancies Minnie himself. In a dramatic scene in the second act, Minnie manages to save the wounded bandit, hidden in the loft of her cabin, from surrender through a clever poker game with Rance. Yet before too long, the miners catch Johnson who had been nursed back to health by Minnie. As the men prepare to hang him, Johnson asks for one last mercy: that Minnie believe him free and far away. At that moment, Minnie rides in, wielding a pistol. When her pleas to spare Johnson prove fruitless, she reminds then men how much they owe her. One by one, the miners yield to her plea. Minnie and Johnson ride off to a happier future.

3. Video Excerpts from The Girl of the Golden West: Act I 1. Prelude – This vigorous opening takes us right into the Polka Saloon. 2. “Che faranno i vecchi miei”- Jake Wallace’s sad ditty that causes Larkens to break down and cry. It is filled with longing and a desire to be home. 3. “Hello, Minnie!”- Minnie’s impressive entrance following her rifle shot. 4. “Laggiù nel Soledad” – Minnie reminisces about her life and her childhood. Act II 5.“Una partita a poker!” – The poker game: The orchestra provides soft pulsation under this tension filled scene. It ends with a huge gust of hysteria from Minnie. Act III 6.“Ch’ella mi creda” – This is Johnson’s big moment as he begs the miners not to reveal his death to Minnie. • Identify the various operatic voices that you hear in the music. Can you tell the difference between a tenor (Dick Johnson) and a baritone (Jack Rance)? Discuss the emotions or ideas that are being sung about. Are they clear? How does the melody support these emotions or ideas?

4. Opera Terms Opera in Italian is called "opera lirica," or lyric work. ‘Lyric’ is defined as ‘appropriate song,’ so opera lirica is a work of theatre that is set to song. Opera combines the best of the arts: singing, orchestra, drama, dance, sets, costumes, lighting and special effects. All of these characteristics combine to make opera one of the most powerful art forms. Opera is just as entertaining now as it was when it was first created. If you like a good story, you’ll like opera. Here are a few things to help you figure it all out. Libretto: Italian for “little book.” The words of an opera written by a librettist.

Aria: Italian for an air or song; the big number where the singer expresses feelings and shows off the voice. Recitative: Speech-singing where the singer may adopt the rhythms of ordinary speech. Used to further the plot or set up an aria. Duet: An aria built for two. Singers express feelings to each other or the audience. Ensem ble: Principal singers performing mostly together, expressing similar or different opinions and emotions. Fach or Voice Category: German for “compartment.” A voice category or range of notes and voice quality in individual singers. Coloratura Soprano: The highest female voice. This soprano is the ‘tweety bird’ of opera, singing the highest range of notes with great flexibility. Soprano: The voice has a high range of notes. Voice quality can be dramatic or lyric. Minnie in The Girl of the Golden West is a soprano role. M ezzo-Soprano: Mezzo-Sopranos have the middle range of the female voice. The role of Wowkle is a mezzo-soprano. Tenor: The highest range in the male voice. Dick Johnson is a tenor. Baritone: The middle range of the male voice. The role of Jack Rance is a baritone. Bass: The lowest of the male voices. Chorus: A group of singers who provide support to the principal singers, set the scene and create the mood for an opera. The chorus includes all voice categories.

Performances Saturday, July 6 - 7PM Friday, July 12 - 8PM Sunday, July 21 - 2PM  

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Girl of the Golden West - Study Guide  

Girl of the Golden West - Study Guide

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