Kentucky Opera is thrilled to present Puccini’s masterwork, THE GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST. Featuring sweeping landscapes, soaring arias, and the magic of a Puccini love story, audiences throughout Kentuckiana are going to enjoy this beautiful opera set in the American west during the height of the gold rush.This will be the first time this opera has been produced on a Louisville stage, and you’re sure to fall in love with Puccini’s ultimate heroine, Minnie, as much as our entire company has.
Speaking of Minnie, soprano Michelle Johnson will be performing the role. We had the chance to catch up with Michelle last week while she was between concert performances to get a little more insight on the woman, the role, and the opera that is sweeping the scene in a global revival.
Michelle got her start in opera at the New England Conservatory of Music, and has been the recipient of many notable awards including Grand Prize winner of the 2011 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and Top Prize winner from the William Matheus Sullivan Foundation. “I wasn’t very sure at first that I wanted to pursue a career in music,” said Michelle, “but after my first year of college, I knew this was the world for me.”
We couldn’t agree more! Her voice, which has been lauded as “magnetic” and “creamy,” is ideal for the challenges of Puccini. “I’m a true lover of Puccini’s works, and one of my goals is to become a ‘Puccini specialist’,” said Michelle. “Puccini was a master of writing for the voice, and he loved a strong, intelligent female heroine.”
So how does Michelle feel THE GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST compares to some of Puccini’s more regularly produced operas? “The audience is going to fall in love with this lush, gorgeous music. They’re also going to love each and every character.”
While this is role debut for Michelle, she’s played many other leading ladies in Puccini operas including Mimi from LA BOHÈME and the title character from MANON LESCAUT. “My favorite role thus far has been Manon Lescaut, another Puccini lady” said Michelle. “It was great experience for preparing for Minnie, as both characters are very strong and they’ll do whatever they need to for true love.”
How else is Michelle preparing for Minnie? “Well, I’m originally from Texas,” she said. “So I feel like I’m pulling from my hometown roots of cowboys, cowgirls, and rodeos. I also grew up with lots of boys in my family, so I’m looking forward to just being one of the guys in this production!”
We can’t wait to welcome Michelle Johnson to Kentucky Opera next month! Alongside her will be returning favorite Jonathan Burton, co-starring as Minnie’s love interest, Dick Johnson. “Jonathan doesn’t know that I’m one of his biggest fans,” said Michelle. “It’s going to be a pleasure to share the stage with such a great artist.”
THE GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST premieres November 14, with an encore performance on Sunday, November 16. Tickets available now here, or by calling (502) 584-4500.