VIDEO: PBS NewsHour Goes Inside John Adams' New Opera GIRLS OF THE GOLDEN WEST
On November 21, San Francisco Opera opened the world premiere of Girls of the Golden West, the newest opera by American composer John Adams. With a libretto drawn from historical sources by director Peter Sellars, Girls of the Golden West explores the true stories of pioneers on California's Gold Rush frontier during the 1850s. PBS News Hour went inside the new work this week. Check out their segment below, including footage from the show as well as an interview with composer, John Adams.
2017 marks John Adams' 70th birthday year and performances of the composer's works for the concert and opera house stages have been presented around the world. Girls of the Golden West, which Adams began composing in June 2015 and completed this summer, is the culmination of these celebrations. Created expressly for San Francisco Opera and initiated by former General Director David Gockley, Girls of the Golden West is a co-commission and co-production with the Dallas Opera and the Dutch National Opera, Amsterdam. The opera is also the latest collaboration between the Company and Adams, which also includes productions of Adams' Nixon in China, The Death of Klinghoffer and Doctor Atomic.
A California resident, Adams said: "I have a cabin in the Sierra Nevada Mountains not far from where these events in the opera took place. I know the terrain. I have hiked through those valleys and along those hillsides. This is home to me. Not many composers can hope to be as lucky as I to have this connection to the historical reality."
Girls of the Golden West transpires in the historic mining camps of Rich Bar and Downieville during California's transition from territory to American statehood, a period which coincided with the Gold Rush and its unprecedented migration of people from around the world attracted by the prospect of striking it rich in the region's gold fields. Sellars' libretto draws from sources illuminating multiple perspectives of this global event, including the California history classic The Shirley Letters, a collection of 23 letters by Louise Clappe penned under the name "Dame Shirley" describing the rugged conditions and clash of cultures in the gold mining camps from 1851 to 1852; the diary of Chilean miner Ramón Gil Navarro; memoirs of fugitive slaves; poems of Chinese immigrants; the Argentine poet Alfonsina Storni; Frederick Douglass' speech "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?"; gold miner songs; and Mark Twain's Roughing It.