Girls of the Golden West (opera)

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Girls of the Golden West
Opera by John Adams
Librettist Peter Sellars
Language English
Based on Letters by
by Louise Clappe
Premiere 2017

Girls of the Golden West is an opera in two acts with music by John Adams and a libretto by Peter Sellars. The San Francisco Opera commissioned the work jointly with Dallas Opera, the Dutch National Opera (De Nationale Opera) and Teatro La Fenice in Venice. As of June 2016, Adams was composing music to accompany the libretto.[1] The opera was premiered in San Francisco on November 21, 2017.[2]

The opera is inspired by the 1851/1852 letters of Louise Clappe, who lived for a year and a half in the mining settlement of Rich Bar (now Diamondville, California) during the California Gold Rush. Clappe published the letters under the pen name Dame Shirley.[3][4] The libretto is also sourced from other literature of the period, including newspaper articles and the writings of Mark Twain. Adams wrote, "To be able to set to music the authentic voices of these people, whether from their letters or their songs or from newspaper accounts from their time, is a great privilege for me." Sellars, who will also direct the opera, conceived the libretto while doing research for a production of Giacomo Puccini's 1910 opera La fanciulla del West (often translated into English as The Girl of the Golden West ), which also deals with the gold rush period. According to Sellars, "These true stories of the Forty-Niners are overwhelming in their heroism, passion and cruelty, telling tales of racial conflicts, colorful and humorous exploits, political strife and struggles to build anew a life and to decide what it would mean to be American."[1]

Sellars's previous collaborations with Adams have included premiere productions of Nixon in China, The Death of Klinghoffer and Doctor Atomic (for which Sellars also wrote the libretto).[5]


  1. ^ a b San Francisco Opera (June 14, 2016). "San Francisco Opera to Present World Premiere of 'Girls of the Golden West'" (Press release). Archived from the original on October 6, 2017. Retrieved November 28, 2017. 
  2. ^ "Girls of the Golden West". San Francisco Opera. Retrieved November 22, 2017. 
  3. ^ Shirley, Dame (1970). The Shirley Letters. Peregine Press. 
  4. ^ Smith-Barazini, Marlene (Winter 1999–2000). "Out of The Shadows Louise Clappe's Life and Early California Writings". California History. 
  5. ^ Michael Cooper, "John Adams and Peter Sellars Again Joining Forces for New Opera", New York Times, 14 June 2016, accessed 15 June 2016