The Girl of the Golden West

a new American adaptation

words by David Scott Marley
based on the play by David Belasco and the original libretto by Guelfo Civinini and Carlo Zangarini
music by Giacomo Puccini from his opera La Fanciulla del West

Winter 1849. Men from Philly, New Orleans, even Australia, have come to the California Sierras to scrabble for gold. In a mining camp on Cloudy Mountain, Minnie runs her makeshift saloon with plain talking, lots of heart — and a pistol at her side, just in case. While the sheriff hunts for the bandit Ramerrez, Minnie falls for a smooth, well-spoken stranger from Sacramento. But is he what he claims to be? Sometimes it gets powerful hard to tell the good guys from the bad ones.

Puccini’s most surprising opera is restless, exciting, passionate, and flavored with the sounds of 19th-century America. The story is exciting, with a lot of action, humor, and romance, not to mention what has to be the most suspenseful poker game ever. Based on the classic play by David Belasco, The Girl of the Golden West starts out like a typical American Western melodrama: the virtuous heroine, the noble sheriff, the desperate bandit. But it isn’t long before the clichés are turned on their heads and the line between right and wrong starts to blur.

My aim in this new version is to give the opera something it has never had before: a libretto written in authentic Old West dialect that sounds natural and sings well at the same time. The details of the story are clearer and the characters more complex and alive than ever. If you think you already know this opera well, you’re in for some surprises.

Reviews for The Girl of the Golden West

  • “Great news for those of us who treasure this underappreciated masterpiece … Never was a great opera so in need of a good English translation — and now it has one courtesy of David Scott Marley” — San Francisco Classical Voice
  • “An excellent new English-language adaptation by David Scott Marley … make[s] the opera clearer, more concise, and closer to home” — Contra Costa Times
  • “Wonderful … [Marley] keeps the language fluent and distinctly American” — San Francisco Chronicle