Review Roundup: LA FANCIULLA DEL WEST at Lincoln Center
LA FANCIULLA DEL WEST will play at the Lincoln Center's Rose Theatre through September 12. The Italian opera by Puccini animates the passion and adventure of the California Gold Rush in the mid 1800s. The production is an international collaboration between Teatro di Giglio in Lucca, Italy, the Teatro Lirico in Cagliari, and Opera Carolina.
The cast features Kristin Sampson as Minnie, Jonathan Burton as Dick Johnson, Kevin Short as Jack Rance, Alexander Birch Elliott as Sonora, Michael Boley as Nick, Christopher Job as Ashby, and Kenneth Overton as Jake Wallace.
Let's see what the critics had to say!
Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times: Still, Minnie's tenacious determination came through in the steely fervor of Ms. Sampson's performance, especially in her dealings with Dick Johnson, the rootless stranger who turns out to be the bandit Ramerrez. When she recalls how deeply her parents loved each other, you believed entirely in her high standards for marital devotion.
Eric C. Simpson, New York Classical Review: New York City Opera's new production of the work, which opened the company's season on Wednesday, featured a pair of strong lead performances, to be sure: Jonathan Burton was in excellent form as the bandit-in-disguise, Dick Johnson, showing a pure, ringing tenor and strong lyric sense. He overcame a slight awkwardness onstage with moments of focused passion, notably giving a tearful account of his climactic aria "Ch'ella mi creda." The most striking performance among the lead trio was Kevin Short's unusually sympathetic Jack Rance. There was a certain wounded nobility in his portrayal of the domineering sheriff, and the clear depth of his love for Minnie made it impossible to hate him entirely even in his vindictive exultation over Johnson's capture. His musical performance was a marvel as well, filling out the role with a rich, booming bass-baritone.
James Jorden, The Observer: However, in the most prominent of the opera's cameos, baritone Alexander Birch Elliott was quite simply perfect as Sonora, inhabiting his duster and cowboy boots with the testosterone-fueled ease of a young Sam Elliott. His molten baritone vaulted through the climactic phrase of the entire opera, "Le tue parole sono di Dio" (Minnie, your words are from God), convincing the lynch mob to pardon Johnson for Minnie's sake. Don't ask me what happened after that, because I was blinded with tears.
Heidi Waleson, The Wall Street Journal: Ms. Sampson seemed most comfortable as the pistol-packing mama of the frontier: She unleashed high notes with reliable ferocity, but was less audible in the middle part of her voice and had trouble finding Minnie's vulnerable side. With his serviceable, substantial tenor, Mr. Burton brought some aggressive charm to Dick and, finally, in his gallows aria, a hint of warmth. Mr. Short completed the trio of power players, blasting away as the villain. Among the many supporting roles, the standouts were the mellifluous baritones Alexander Birch Elliott as Sonora and Kenneth Overton as the balladeer Jake.
Photo: Sarah Shatz