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Deborah Voigt’s “winning” Minnie portrayal is a hit

On June 9, Deborah Voigt, America’s top dramatic soprano, marked another milestone in her career when she returned to San Francisco Opera and made her title role debut as the pistol-packing, poker-playing barmaid in Puccini’s Gold Rush extravaganza, La fanciulla del West (The Girl of the Golden West).  Running through July 2, the new San Francisco production is the first North American staging to celebrate the opera’s centenary.

The Associated Press summarized the impact of Deborah Voigt’s role debut, with Mike Silverman enthusing: “Both vocally and dramatically, the role is almost ideally suited to Voigt’s strengths – large, gleaming high notes (most of which hit their mark squarely), and a stage presence that radiates an endearing charm, whether she’s teaching Bible class to the miners, cheating in a poker game against Sheriff Jack Rance or riding in on a white horse to save her man.”

Voigt will give additional high-profile performances as Minnie in the upcoming season, starring in the Metropolitan Opera’s centenary production (Dec 6 – Jan 8).  La fanciulla del West was commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera, and premiered there on December 10, 1910.  Following her Met performances, Voigt will sing the same role at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, beginning January 22 (nine performances through Feb 21).  Her other summer 2010 performances are both as Richard Strauss’s Salome: at the Verbier Festival with Valery Gergiev (Aug 1) and at Japan’s Saito Kinen Festival (Aug 22, 25, 28, & 30).

A sampling of critical commentary on Deborah Voigt’s first Fanciulla follows.

“[Deborah Voigt’s] passionate chasteness suits Minnie, an innocent seeking true love.  Stick her together with bandito Licitra – sexily mellow-voiced in his San Francisco debut – and you’ve got both ends of an electrical connection.”

San Jose Mercury News [Richard Scheinin]

“Deborah Voigt…distinguished herself with a strong performance with strong acting.  The Minnie role is one of the more difficult soprano roles among Puccini’s operas.  It calls for a singer who must combine a Wagnerian sense for grandeur and gravitas with the lyrical softness of a Puccini soprano.  She deeply embodied the role and gave it spark.  Her voice was often radiant, especially in the three arias at the end of the first act.”

Sacramento Bee [Edward Ortiz]

“As Minnie, Deborah Voigt gives a winning performance, singing, acting, and horse-riding.”

San Francisco Examiner [Janos Gereben]

“Deborah Voigt’s entrance as Minnie was beautifully conceived: she stood on the stairs leading to the saloon while delivering her first lines.  Indeed, her characterization benefited both from the direction (by Lorenzo Mariani) and from her sensitivity to detail, and her vocal performance was nearly flawless – her bright, vigorous tone filling the house without ever sounding aggressive.  What is more, she interacted gracefully with everyone on stage, allowing the audience to understand the reasons why Minnie so fascinates the miners – and also why she has become so attached to them, in spite of her famed independence.” [Marina Romani]

“The culmination of miners’ mayhem is suddenly stopped with the grand entrance of the heroine, Minnie, showcasing the incomparable Deborah Voigt.  This also marks another milestone in the dramatic soprano’s career.  She sings the role of the female protagonist for the very first time.  Puccini’s ‘Annie Oakley’ has requisites that few women will ever achieve.  Mother figure, bible teacher, financial custodian, saloon proprietor, and lover are all woven into this complex yet rather down to earth figure.  Deborah Voigt can be added to the list of singers who have tamed the Wild West in unaffected and unembellished fashion.  Firstly, this role is exceedingly taxing vocally since the range of notes endlessly bounces on both ends.  Secondly, the melodramatic Act II demands a woman of sustainability both in action and motion.  Thirdly, Minnie is a character that must delicately satisfy the many sides of a female scarcely found during that particular time and place.  It is a set of unusual circumstances, yet Deborah Voigt conservatively delivers on all levels, which, in turn, gives us comfort, security, hope, and love.  She is a crowd pleaser.” [Christie Grimstad]

“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.”

San Francisco Chronicle [Joshua Kosman]


Deborah Voigt: spring/summer 2010
June 18, 24, 27, & 29; July 2
San Francisco, CA
Puccini: La fanciulla del West (Minnie, role debut)
San Francisco Opera / Nicola Luisotti
August 1
Verbier, Switzerland
R. Strauss: Salome (title role)
Verbier Festival / Valery Gergiev
August 22, 25, 28, & 30
Matsumoto, Japan
R. Strauss: Salome (title role)
Saito Kinen Festival

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© 21C Media Group, June 2010

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