Richard Jones directs ENO’s first new production of Puccini’s ‘The Girl of the Golden West’ for 50 years

The Girl of the Golden West

Giacomo Puccini (1858 – 1924)

Libretto Guelfo Civinini and Carlo Zangarini after David Belasco

Conductor: Keri-Lynn Wilson | Director: Richard Jones

Opening Thursday 2 October 2014, 7.30pm at London Coliseum (9 performances)

Celebrated opera director Richard Jones returns to ENO to direct the first of two productions this season, following his ‘rapturously received’ (Daily Telegraph) success with Handel’s Rodelinda in February 2014.

This new production of Puccini’s ‘American’ opera set in the Wild West during the Californian gold rush will be ENO’s first for 50 years with the great British soprano Susan Bullock making her stage debut in the title role.

Leading the ENO orchestra and all-male chorus, experienced opera conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson makes her British debut.


The opera follows the lives of saloon-bar owner Minnie and a community of gold miners who are struggling to cope with the harsh realities of daily life in a bleak and unforgiving environment. They have put their lives on hold in the hope of a better and brighter future. The local sheriff Jack Rance proclaims his love for Minnie, yet she rejects him in favour of stranger Dick Johnson who, unknown to the rest of the cast, is the notorious bandit Ramerrez in disguise. Minnie and Dick declare their love before Johnson’s true identity is revealed. Minnie forces him to leave and he is then shot by one of Rance’s men who are hunting him. Minnie tries to hide him but he is discovered by Rance. She begs Rance to spare Dick’s life but he refuses. Minnie challenges him to a game of poker, if she wins Dick is saved but if she loses she will marry Rance. Can she outwit him and save her love?

Richard Jones collaborates with designer Miriam Buether to create a stark and claustrophobic setting, highlighting the desperation and sacrifice felt by the community of miners who live there. Costume designs reflective of the period are by Nicky Gillibrand. The translation is by Kelley Rourke, whose translation for ENO’s The Elixir of Love was praised as it ‘goes all out to capture the vernacular of the time and works rather brilliantly’ (Daily Telegraph). Lighting designer Mimi Jordan Sherin and choreographer Lucy Burge complete the creative team.

Canadian conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson makes her UK operatic debut. Already well established throughout Europe and North America, Keri-Lynn has conducted at numerous opera houses across the world including Bavarian State Opera, Vienna State Opera, the Bolshoi, Washington National Opera, LA Opera, Bilbao, Florence and Rome.  She previously conducted the opera in Montreal in 2008.

Leading the cast of outstanding singers is British soprano Susan Bullock who makes her stage debut as Minnie. She previously sung the role in concert at the 2010 Edinburgh Festival with the Daily Telegraph describing her performance as ‘tremendous’. Susan began her career as an ENO company principal before going on to major international success. She has most recently sung with Opera Australia, Aldeburgh Festival and the Royal Opera House and was made a CBE for her services to opera in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

British tenor Peter Auty debuts in the role of the bandit Dick Johnson. He has previously sung for ENO in Der RosenkavalierRigoletto and La bohème. Formerly a company principal at the Royal Opera House he has also performed with Grange Park Opera, Glyndebourne, Opera North and Scottish Opera. Peter’s professional musical career started at the tender age of 13, when as a choir boy at St Paul’s Cathedral he was chosen to sing ‘Walking in the Air’, the theme to the 1982 animated film of The Snowman.

American bass baritone Craig Colclough makes his European and role debut as the Sheriff Jack Rance. He started his career at LA Opera before joining Florida Grand Opera’s Young Artist Studio. In 2012 he became a Filene Young Artist at the Wolf Trap Opera company. He has also performed with Arizona Opera.

British tenor Graham Clark and Richard Roberts share the role of Nick. Graham is a former ENO Company principal and has performed a wide variety of roles with the company over many years. His extensive international career has seen him perform across the world and includes numerous seasons at the Met, Royal Opera House and Bayreuth. This is his debut in the role. Richard Roberts is also a former ENO Company principal. His most recent role for ENO was Kaufmann in Jakob Lenz in 2012. He has also sung with English Touring Opera and Opera North. Richard will also sing the role of Harry in this production.

The role of the miner Sonora will be performed by British baritone and former ENO Young Artist Leigh Melrose. Leigh has performed numerous roles with ENO, including the title role in Carrie Cracknell’s production of Wozzeck in 2013 where the Observer commented that he was ‘phenomenal’. Most recently he sung Ned Keene in David Alden’s critically acclaimed production of Peter Grimes.

Australian tenor Adrian Dwyer will sing the role of Trin the miner, a role he recently performed for Opera North. He most recently appeared as Jaquino in Calixto Bieto’s Fidelio for ENO in 2013.

British baritone Jonathan McGovern makes his role debut as Sid. Jonathan is a regular at ENO, his roles to date have included Polynices in the world premiere of Thebans by Julian Anderson, Jake in the world premiere of Two Boys by Nico Muhly, Yamadori in Madame Butterfly, Simon Vines in Michel van der Aa’s world premiere The Sunken Garden, and Restaurant Waiter in Deborah Warner’s acclaimed production of Death in Venice.

Making their ENO and role debuts are young British tenor Sam Furness as the miner Joe,British bass Nicholas Crawley as the miner Larkens and Anglo French baritone Charles Rice as the miner Handsome.

Completing the cast is British mezzo soprano and former ENO Opera Works student Clare Presland as Wowkle, Jimmy Holliday as Billy Jackrabbit, British baritone George Humphries as Jake Wallace, the travelling minstrel, British baritone Alexander Robin Baker as the miner Happy and American Bass Nicholas Masters as Ashby.


The Girl of the Golden West opens at the London Coliseum on Thursday 2 October for 9 performances – 2, 10, 15, 22, 24, 27, 30 October at 7.30pm, 18 October and 1 November at 6.30pm

Running time: 2 hours 35 minutes

Pre-performance talk, 15 October 5.45-6.30pm £5/£2.50 concessions

Co-production with Santa Fe Opera

ENO’s 2014/15 season spans more than 400 years of opera, from 1607 to 2015, and will be staged in four venues: ENO’s home at the London Coliseum, Bristol Old Vic, the Barbican and the Young Vic. The season features four productions by British composers, including two world premieres by living British composers and ENO’s first opera for children and families. From terrorism, invasion and despair through to miracles, enlightenment and joy, two millennia of history, four centuries of composition and ENO’s 16 dramatic productions together reveal the unique ability of opera to convey what it is to be human.


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