Fanciulla is a special interest of mine, of course, because of A Cadenza for Caruso. How fitting that this current production should first be performed on Dec. 10, 2010, one hundred years to the day after the world premiere at the Met with Caruso, Destinn, and Amato, with Toscanini in the pit.
There's been some comment about how Deborah Voigt's voice has taken on a harder edge following her weight-loss surgery, but I swear I couldn't hear it. Her voice was bright and warm, even on those "high Cs that come out of nowhere," as she put it. I can't imagine the difficulty in singing a through-composed work like this in which you're onstage most of the time. I thought Voigt was absolutely great. Giordani, it seemed to me, had to strain a lot, but he generally got his notes out okay. Baritone Lucio Gallo was new to me; he made a properly menacing Jack Rance.
I've frequently complained about the Met's love affair with brown sets. Act I of Fanciulla was without doubt the brownest I've ever seen -- brown furniture, brown props, brown costumes, and dim lighting that made everything else look brown. But this time, I have to admit it seemed appropriate. I don't imagine Old West saloons thrown together in mining camps went in much for candy colors. The other two acts had more color variety, and all three sets are the old-fashioned, realistic style of stage setting. I liked it. This is not a brand new production but a slightly revamped version of an earlier one designed by Mario del Monaco's son, Giancarlo. You'd think for a centennial production they'd come up with one that was all new, but this one works very well. VERY well.
One thing I did not like about the production was that Minnie and Johnson/Ramirez do not ride away together at the end. They simply join hands and walk away. "Addio, California!" sounds so much better when sung on horseback.