Puccini’s western starring Antonenko and Magee. La Fanciulla del West, Wiener Staatsoper, January 14th, 2017

Giacomo Puccini is one of my favourite composers, but somehow until now I have seen La Fanciulla del West only as livestream or MetHD and thus was quite eager to see it live with a great cast. As there was a plan to come to Vienna for La Sonnambula, the opportunity to see Aleksandrs Antonenko and Emily Magee in of the most innovative Puccini opera’s next evening was an unmissable choice.

Part of my opera journey has been following career development of Latvian-bred performers, especially singers, and it is always a pleasure to enjoy and appreciate the performer in a new role or in a different cast. The same leading sentiment worked also this time.

The performance was led by Puccini expert Marco Armiliato, he kept the orchestra under agile and energetic tempi throughout. The orchestra sounded superbly under his baton even if a tad too loud at some moments, covering singers especially in group scenes, where stage commotion and movement shaded projection of voices into the auditorium. The ensemble looked and sounded well balanced and aligned.

Aleksandrs Antonenko was in a good shape both physically and vocally, the technique is outstanding, he has a fine and very powerful instrument. His entrance scene was emotionally supercharged and his first phrase “Chi c’ è, per farmi i ricci?…” projected forcefully into the auditorium created goosebumps. Somehow the energy dissipated a bit later on, and was fully reborn in the third act, especially in the Act 3 aria Ch’ella mi creda libero, filled with heartbreaking emotion.  The audience cheered him enthusiastically, and this was well-earned appreciation.

Emily Magee sounded a bit coarse in the beginning, especially in those scenes filled with lower register chest voice required. She adapted later for act 2 and 3, especially her transformation from bar owner into romantic lady and passionate lover was well acted and sung. Her  “Oh se sapeste” was delicate and delightful, and final aria saving her beloved Dick was filled with energy and passion.

Andrzej Dobber

Andrzej Dobber as Sheriff Jack Rance portrayed his character as a pragmatic and action-oriented opportunist, his vocal performance was delivered well with strong, well-supported baritone and credible acting.


The cast with Marco Armiliato (center)

The production by Marco Arturo Marelli is relatively traditional, depicting wild west with picturesque mountains in the background and basic accommodation and social infrastructure of gold miners in the front – just adding the colourful accent of hot-air balloon as evacuation means of the happy couple to the unknown future. This is so unbelievable as happy ending of the opera as such, therefore does not conflict with the concept in general. The fun part was that I have seen two productions by him in the same house on two consecutive nights.

Final scene

Overall it has been gratifying performance, I have absolutely enjoyed the orchestral performance as well as the singers, while there was some chemistry missing on the stage between Antonenko and Magee. Probably it was an effect of being just 2nd performance in the run and the ensemble will get glued together much better in the next ones.

Giacomo Puccini. La Fanciulla del West. 

Performance on January 14th, 2017, Wiener Staatsoper

Conductor Marco Armiliato
Director and Lights Marco Arturo Marelli
Costumes Dagmar Niefind
Minnie Emily Magee
Sheriff Jack Rance Andrzej Dobber
Dick Johnson (Ramerrez) Aleksandrs Antonenko
Nick Carlos Osuna
Ashby Alexandru Moisiuc
Sonora Boaz Daniel
Trin Thomas Ebenstein
Sid Hans Peter Kammerer
Bello Igor Onishchenko
Harry Peter Jelosits
Joe Benedikt Kobel
Happy Clemens Unterreiner
Larkens Marcus Pelz
Billy Jackrabbit Ryan Speedo Green
Wowkle Ilseyar Khayrullova
Jake Wallace Orhan Yildiz
José Castro Orhan Yildiz
Postillion Wolfram Igor Derntl

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