THE GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST, or LA FANCIULLA DEL WEST, is on many opera enthusiasts’ lists of top productions of all time. The strong female lead, the classic Puccini love story, and the sweeping vistas combine to create an atmospheric opera for the ages. Unfortunately, the stunning visual elements that helped make THE GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST a perennial favorite have also hindered the production of this famed opera on regional stages.
But now the long wait is over. Technological advances have made it possible for us to present Puccini’s THE GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST to you in all of its splendor. This week we caught up with Barry Steele, Production Designer, for an inside look at how technological advances have made THE GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST a reality for Louisville!
It’s easy to say that technology has made it possible for Kentucky Opera to present this Puccini masterpiece to regional audiences, but what does that really mean? “About ten years ago, a critical alignment of technical advancements in video production and computing made powerful tools available at budgets affordable by the performing arts,” says Barry. “It’s an exciting time of possibility where we are working towards the full integration of all visual elements in the service of storytelling.”
And these exciting times are just beginning! “Technology is changing the way we are viewing opera,” says Barry. “But the way that innovative directors like John Hoomes conceive of opera productions for our audiences is what’s really special. Opera has so much to give, and creating productions that mean something to our audiences is our greatest responsibility.”
Taking on this responsibility was a large job. “John challenged me to come up with a design that would help move the story into the mythic,” Barry says. In developing a vision for the set, he drew inspiration from great filmmakers, including Akira Kurosawa and Sergio Leone.
“After processing all the media, John and I worked through Puccini’s music to assemble the right environment for each moment. It was a very fulfilling process,” says Barry, “because the music is so specific. Throughout the performance, a networked series of computers and projectors constantly shift the projected environments in time with the other elements. These are cued entirely by a crew of professionals who dedicate their lives to the service of the arts.”
So what’s the most unique element of THE GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST set design? Barry says, “Certainly it would have to be the Cinemascope-sized screen that forms the background to the story.” We couldn’t agree more, and are so thrilled to bring this technological wonder to the Brown Theatre.
You must experience the transformative power of Barry’s production design in our upcoming production of THE GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST, an opera which Barry calls “inherently American.” From the atmospheric imagery to the relationship between the set and the music, we know that our production of THE GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST will astound and delight even the most seasoned opera-goers!