Friday night we went to the second performance of John Adams' new opera The Girls of the Golden West. It was nice to have an evening out with my wife. I agreed with her that the first act was episodic, but the second act had a good dramatic arc about the gold miners degenerating into savagery on the Fourth of July and driving out all of the miners who weren't considered good Americans or Europeans.
It concluded with the lynching of Josefa Segovia, who stabbed a miner who tried to rape her.
The singing was excellent. Julia Bullock was Dame Shirley. Most of her songs came directly from the letters. Her husband, Fayette Clappe, did not sing. Ned Peters, the former slave, had a large part in both acts. Davone Tines had a solo based on Frederick Douglass' "What to a slave is the 4th of July?" Hya Jung Lee as Ah Sing had a beautiful voice. Her aria came from poems carved at the Angel Island Immigration Station. J'Nai Bridges had me crying as Josefa Segovia. Joe Cannon, who tried to rape Josefa, did not have a well developed character. Sometimes it was hard to tell him from other characters. Paul Appleby had a good voice. Ryan McKinney was the narrator/observer/occasional participant.
The prostitutes/dancing girls looked as if they were having a great time.
Lorena Feijóo, who did Lola Montez' Spider Dance used to be with the San Francisco Ballet.
I liked John Adams' music, which set many Gold Rush-era songs and poems to music. The chorus of gold miners was powerful. Peter Sellars had fun staging it. I liked the panorama behind Dame Shirley's wagon ride with Ned Peters. We could see the woman cranking the scene. The image had a large, obvious seam in it. I liked the neon beer signs in the Empire.
My wife didn't like the scene where Dame Shirley described her cabin. The stage hands carried out each piece, stood there while she sang about it, then took it away. We both liked the use of the huge stump and slice of redwood tree in the second act.
My wife said that there was a vigorous debate going on in the ladies' room during the intermission. Some people hated the show. Others defended it. Some people, including the couple sitting next to my wife, left after the intermission. We were happy that we went and we stayed.
|Film Daily, 17-March-1938|