Giacomo Puccini’s THE GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST is an uncommon opera for many reasons. Set in the American West during the goldrush, it may be opera’s only nod to the classic Spaghetti Western, and it was the very first opera to make its global debut at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. However, the most unusual thing about THE GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST may be its relationship to banking and lending giant, Wells Fargo.
Founded in 1852 in San Francisco as a banking and transportation service, Wells Fargo played an iconic and indispensable role in the formation of the American West during the Gold Rush era. The red stagecoach, now synonymous with Wells Fargo, was used to transport valuables overland and would have been manned by Wells Fargo agents, charged with the safe delivery of the gold, bank notes, and other valuable possessions on board.
The reputation of Wells Fargo was so well-known by the time Puccini penned THE GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST in 1907 that he included it by name in his opera, thus creating an almost unprecedented relationship between a real company and a fictional opera. In fact, much of the opera’s plot centers around a Wells Fargo agent named Ashby and his attempts to apprehend a bandit who robs stagecoaches.
“Wells Fargo is almost a character in itself,” says Francis Skolnick, Director of Development for Kentucky Opera. From the vintage Wells Fargo safe that rests on stage during Act One to Ashby’s unwavering pursuit of the bandit Dick Johnson, it is impossible to separate THE GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST from its ties to Wells Fargo.
This is why Kentucky Opera is so pleased to have corporate sponsorship of THE GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST from Wells Fargo. Without their appreciation for the arts and the history that has linked the American West and Wells Fargo for over 150 years, this production would not be possible.