Just in: John Adams’ next opera will be Puccini soundalike

Just in: John Adams’ next opera will be Puccini soundalike


norman lebrecht

June 14, 2016

San Francisco Opera has lifted the lid on its next world premiere. It almost shares a title with a Puccini opera. Homage, or brand blurring?

John Adams conducting Prom 4, 2012

San Francisco Opera General Director David Gockley today announced the Company will present the world premiere commission of Girls of the Golden West, an opera set during the 1850s California Gold Rush, by the internationally-renowned team of composer John Adams and director/librettist Peter Sellars. Presented at the War Memorial Opera House for seven performances opening November 2017, San Francisco Opera will announce casting, conductor, design team and ticket information in January 2017 as part of the Company’s 2017–18 repertory season.

Joining San Francisco Opera as co-commissioners and co-producers of this new project are The Dallas Opera, Amsterdam’s Dutch National Opera (De Nationale Opera) and Teatro La Fenice, Venice. Girls of the Golden West is presented by arrangement with Hendon Music, Inc., a Boosey & Hawkes company, publisher and copyright owner.

Comprising two acts and sung in English, Girls of the Golden West is scored for eight characters, men’s chorus and orchestra including musicians on guitar, accordion and piano. The libretto by Peter Sellars, who also directs the opera, is drawn from historical sources and interweaves stories of three Gold Rush women whose lives intersected in a small mining community in the Sierra Nevada mountains in 1850. The opera is based on factual events and persons that typify the mix of wildness, optimism, greed, violence, humor and racial prejudice of the era, all played out against the rugged beauty of California’s mountain surroundings.

Read more here.



  • Jorge Grundman says:

    Perhaps Adams remembered Pucccini’s La fanciulla del West…It’s difficult to “sound” as Puccini, because you need to have a very strong melodic inspiration and in the case of Adams I do not remember any memorable melody written by him. But why not write it as Adams?

    Is it because the most of the operas written today do not have any memorable melody that touch our hearts like the ones by Puccini, Bellini o Wagner?

    Does Adams need to be remembered like Puccini? In my humble opinion the fact is that Adams is Adams and Puccini is Puccini. No need to neither to mix or imitate: two different worlds. By the way, I like Puccini…

  • Thomas E Newby says:

    I don’t care what Adams writes. It all sounds the same, boring.

  • Richard says:

    I think it’s clear at this point that Adams and Sellars “thing” is writIng about women whether it’s the inclusion of women in Doctor Atomic (the wives and Native American nannies), El Niño, the Gospel according to the Other Mary, Adams recent 1001 Arabian Nighrs violin concerto told from the woman’s perspective. The proverbial woman’s point of view has become their platform.

    Just as the “Other Mary” has nothing to do with other composers of the canon of biblical cantatas and oratorios, it’s pretty clear that Adams will be composing his own music. I don’t understand how anyone could be confused about that point. This opera has a funny title, an allusion to Puccini, that’s all. It’s like being confused about Wagner writing an opera about ancient Meistersingers…”wait, is he going to use old music? Is he not going to use the orchestra?”

    Personally I’m happy Adams is finally writing another opera. Klinghoffer has been chewed up and thrown away by the world. It’s officially toxic which is too bad. Nixon in China remains durable and entertaining as Doctor Atomic as well. A Flowering Tree isn’t done all that often and his two oratorios skirt the line of being operas but really aren’t. I know he’s been looking for a new subject for a long time.