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Deborah Voigt sings Puccini’s “Golden Girl” in Chicago

Deborah Voigt has been wowing critics and fans alike with her turn as Puccini’s quintessential New World heroine in the Metropolitan Opera’s centenary staging of La fanciulla del West (The Girl of the Golden West).  The New Year soon brings another anniversary production, when Voigt takes Puccini’s Gold Rush girl to Lyric Opera of Chicago (Jan 22 – Feb 21).  Of a December Met performance as the pistol-packing, poker-playing barmaid, the Associated Press raved: “Voigt displayed a shining top that pierced through the sumptuous orchestration.  But it was not just her voice that made it a memorable night.  Her warm, endearing manner combined with an infectious, stage-dominating moxie to make Minnie all her own.”

Puccini described the original play of The Girl of the Golden West as “a drama of love against a dark and vast background of primitive characters and untrammeled nature.”  The story inspired Puccini to write for one of his favorite female characters, the archetypal street-savvy girl with a heart of gold – an American heroine the composer found “very refreshing.”  His Minnie is involved in a love triangle with a bandit, Dick Johnson, and a sheriff, Jack Rance.  The Chicago revival of Harold Prince’s La fanciulla production – styled “good as gold” by the Chicago Sun-Times – will reunite the soprano with her Dick Johnson from the Met, tenor Marcello Giordani. Jack Rance will be sung by Marco Vratogna, and Sir Andrew Davis will conduct.
The Met run of La fanciulla del West began on December 6: 100 years to the week since the house premiered Puccini’s opera with Arturo Toscanini on the podium.  The new staging marks the first time La fanciulla has been performed at the Met since 1993, and by the end of the run on January 8, the opera will have received more than 100 performances at the house since it premiered on December 10, 1910.  The nine performances in the Met’s current run will be capped by a broadcast in the Met: Live in HD series on January 8.  Besides Marcello Giordani as Dick Johnson, Voigt is joined by Lucio Gallo as Jack Rance and by conductor Nicola Luisotti, the San Francisco Opera music director who presided over her debut performances in the role this summer.  The San Francisco Chronicle enthused over these: “Voigt, singing Minnie for the first time, brought theatrical vibrancy and considerable personal charm to the role – it was no stretch to imagine an entire troop of miners eating out of her hand.”
Reviewing Voigt’s Minnie at the Met, Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times explored her performance in depth:
“The soprano Deborah Voigt, in a role that suits her big, bright voice and hearty character, sings the plucky, gun-toting, good-hearted saloon owner Minnie… . I cannot think of a soprano who could sing any better this demanding role, which requires luscious legato phrasing, a powerful top range and stamina.  For Minnie, she has found a way to soften the sometimes harder edges of her voice and sing with lyrical pliancy while still cutting through the orchestra for big climaxes, including a fearless high C in Act I.
“But what wins you over is Ms. Voigt’s deep feeling for the character.  She looks in her element when she appears in Act I, breaking up a brawl in her bar by shooting three rounds on her rifle.  When she falls for the intriguing stranger Dick Johnson, whom she has met before and thought about often, Minnie opens up poignantly, confessing that she is just a nobody, really, trying to do some good, while the orchestra swells with undercurrents as harmonically murky and plush-textured as anything in Debussy.
“Ms. Voigt moved me deeply during my favorite passage in the opera, the moment in the love duet when Minnie, thinking about what she has accomplished (after all, she does run a business and is beloved by the campers), confesses to the worldly Johnson that she has had only ‘30 dollars’ worth’ of education.  Then, in a tender phrase that Ms. Voigt sang disarmingly, Minnie says, ‘If I had had more learning, who knows what I might have been?’”
For her part, Voigt says Minnie is one of the most exciting characters she has played to date, “because I’m finding so much of myself in her – of who I am as well as what kind of person I try to be.  Maybe I’m giving myself more of a pat on the shoulder than I should, but she’s really a good girl!  She’s got a good heart.  She is the kind of woman who can work with men, shoot a gun, ride a horse, stoke a fire, and run a bar.  All the while, she gets hit on by plenty of guys, but she keeps them at a distance because she really knows what she wants in her romantic life.  Of course, when she finally meets the supposed right man, it turns out that he has bad intentions.  But through her love and example she’s able to reform him.  Imagine that – a Puccini opera with a happy ending.  There aren’t too many of those!”
Deborah Voigt as the Girl of the Golden West:
December 6
New York, NY
Puccini: La fanciulla del West (Minnie – house role debut)
Metropolitan Opera / Nicola Luisotti
Also: Dec 10, 14, 18, 22, 27, 30; Jan 3, & 8
January 22
Chicago, IL
Puccini: La fanciulla del West (Minnie – house role debut) 
Lyric Opera of Chicago / Andrew Davis
Also: Jan 26, 29; Feb 4, 9, 12, 15, 18, & 21

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