California, at the height of the gold rush: the place of longing turns out to be an unforgiving wasteland where the law of the strongest applies. Only Minnie's bar functions as a place of peaceful coexistence, revered by all the gold seekers and passionately desired by the rough-legged Sheriff Rance. But when Minnie falls in love with a stranger who is unmasked as the long-sought bandit Johnson, the already fragile order is turned upside down.
Giacomo Puccini’s works, especially his arias from »La Bohème«, »Tosca« and »Madama Butterfly«, are among the most played operas.
»La Fanciulla del West«, by contrast, which was premiered at the New York Metropolitan Opera in 1910, stands so much in the shadow of his other operas that it is only being performed at Unter den Linden now for the first time.
The Wild West opera, in which society's outcasts clash in search of wealth and a little happiness, offers at first glance less lyricism and euphony than most of his operas, in keeping with the rough setting. But he succeeded in creating a portrait of a world full of deprivation and shattered dreams.
The composer was rightly proud of his score’s refined timbres. Anton von Webern, who was not renowned for his affinity with Italian opera, commented appreciatively: »The score has an entirely original sound. Magnificent. Every beat is surprising. Very special sounds.«