The Girl of the Golden West
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by Victoria Webb

All you “spaghetti western” fans, of films like Fist Full of Dollars starring Clint Eastwood, might be interested in a western that started it all – Giacomo Puccini’s opera The Girl of the Golden West. Set in a California gold mining town, this full-length opera is now playing at Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater.

There is a fare amount of fist fighting and shooting amongst this almost all male cast. But at the heart of the drama, like most operas, lies a love story. In this female starved mining town, Minnie (Kathleen Sisco) is the balancing force that calms the raucous cowboys turned gold miners with her bible study classes. Of course she’s also the source of stirring the men up since every miner is in love with her.

But when Dick Johnson (John Davey Hatcher), a tall dark stranger, enters the town and captures Minnie’s heart, all hell breaks loose. Or as Jack Rance, the sheriff (William Neely) puts it: “Love is heaven and hell and everything in between.”

But the true beauty of this production is that Puccini’s music reflects the passion of the sheriff’s words and the orchestra, conducted by Nina Shuman, with the voices of the cast, touches the hearts of the audience with tones that range from comic to tragic. But this is not a tragic opera where everyone dies singing in the end. Rather the entire production is upbeat and full of life, laughter and hope.

For tickets or more information call (707) 763-8920 or visit

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