John Adams: Girls of the Golden West Los Angeles Philharmonic & John Adams

Album Info

Album Veröffentlichung:


Label: Nonesuch

Genre: Classical

Subgenre: Opera

Interpret: Los Angeles Philharmonic & John Adams

Komponist: John Adams (1947)

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  • John Adams (b. 1947): Girls of the Golden West, Act I:
  • 1Adams: Girls of the Golden West, Act I Scene 1: It was a driving, vigorous, restless population08:56
  • 2Adams: Girls of the Golden West, Act I Scene 1: Wagon Ride - Ned Peters was a hustler05:06
  • 3Adams: Girls of the Golden West, Act I Scene 2: My name is Joe11:01
  • 4Adams: Girls of the Golden West, Act I Scene 2: Now he consoles himself02:36
  • 5Adams: Girls of the Golden West, Act I Scene 3: A gambler’s life I do admire10:49
  • 6Adams: Girls of the Golden West, Act I Scene 3: Josefa, you remember04:14
  • 7Adams: Girls of the Golden West, Act I Scene 4: It's bone, it’s backbone12:20
  • 8Adams: Girls of the Golden West, Act I Scene 4: Comin' up from Red Dog03:29
  • Girls of the Golden West, Act II:
  • 9Adams: Girls of the Golden West, Act II Scene 1: The Raven05:08
  • 10Adams: Girls of the Golden West, Act II Scene 2: The attack on the Mexicans11:04
  • 11Adams: Girls of the Golden West, Act II Scene 3: It seems like midnight07:59
  • 12Adams: Girls of the Golden West, Act II Scene 3: What is this celebration to me?06:57
  • 13Adams: Girls of the Golden West, Act II Scene 4: This very nearly was the cause02:45
  • 14Adams: Girls of the Golden West, Act II Scene 4: Ven esta noche03:02
  • 15Adams: Girls of the Golden West, Act II Scene 4: Blessed and praised00:59
  • 16Adams: Girls of the Golden West, Act II Scene 4: I'm going far away from my creditors08:54
  • 17Adams: Girls of the Golden West, Act II Scene 5: The Downieville mob05:40
  • 18Adams: Girls of the Golden West, Act II Scene 5: Tú me quieres alba06:11
  • 19Adams: Girls of the Golden West, Act II Scene 5: It's four long years (Lousy Miner)04:37
  • 20Adams: Girls of the Golden West, Act II Epilogue: Sometimes I lounge forlornly to the window04:51
  • Total Runtime02:06:38

Info zu John Adams: Girls of the Golden West

Nonesuch releases the first recording of John Adams’ 2017 opera, Girls of the Golden West, on April 26, 2024. Longtime Adams collaborator Peter Sellars created the opera’s libretto, drawing from original sources, and also directs this performance. The composer leads the LA Phil in this live recording from Disney Hall. Girls of the Golden West also features the Los Angeles Master Chorale, conducted by Grant Gershon, and a cast led by Julia Bullock, Davóne Tines, Paul Appleby, Hye Jung Lee, Elliot Madore, Daniela Mack, and Ryan McKinny.

Girls of the Golden West brings true stories of the California Gold Rush to life. The opera rejects the whitewashed romantic view of California in the early days of the Gold Rush and highlights the heroism, passion, racial conflicts, love, cruelty, and truth during one of the most significant events in American history. Sellars used memoirs and historical texts to inform the opera that has been called by the Los Angeles Times “the most powerful opera of the moment.” The work had its world premiere in 2017 at the San Francisco Opera and has since also been presented by the Dutch National Opera.

John Adams’ powerful opera, Girls of the Golden West, is a rejection of the whitewashed romantic view of California in the early days of the Gold Rush. Director Peter Sellars drew from historical texts when he created the libretto, particularly from the memoirs of a woman who called herself Dame Shirley. As Sellars has said, “These true stories of the Forty-Niners are overwhelming in their heroism, passion, and cruelty, telling tales of racial conflicts, colorful and humorous exploits, political strife and struggles to build new life.” Responding to these incidents, Adams’ propulsive music captures all the conflicting emotions with his characteristic insight. “There should be no doubt that Girls of the Golden West is the most powerful opera of the moment.” (Los Angeles Times)

About this Piece: Girls of the Golden West began as a bit of a wry provocation, but over time became something more serious. Its title, of course, refers to the 1905 melodrama Girl of the Golden West by David Belasco that later became the basis for the far better-known Puccini opera, La Fanciulla del West. Belasco’s play is a product of its time, roughly contemporary with the novels of Jack London, and features characters such as Sonora Slim, Handsome Charlie and a “Red Indian” called Billy Jackrabbit. There’s even a Pony Express rider, which would date the action around 1860, meaning that Belasco, a San Francisco native who had run a theater in Virginia City, Nevada, and certainly knew his subject, was writing about events that took place only 40 years prior (imagine events from the year 1983 in our own time).

Shortly after I finished composing The Gospel According to the Other Mary in 2012 for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, I found myself itching to compose a new opera but was uncertain about the subject matter. Fortunately, an idea came about when my longtime collaborator Peter Sellars mentioned how he’d been in conversations with La Scala’s management, who wanted him to direct the Puccini version there. It had been an intriguing offer, but on reading the libretto Peter could not see himself directing an opera with such unsettling stereotypes. Instead, he mused on what an opera about the Gold Rush would be like if it used actual firsthand accounts by the people who lived it. So that was the genesis of our undertaking. Peter contributed two essential narratives, the first being the letters of Louise Clappe, a young woman from Massachusetts who spent nearly two years with her physician husband in the primitive conditions of a rough-and-tumble mining camp, Rich Bar, in the California Sierras. His second source was the Gold Rush diaries of Ramón Gil Navarro, an Argentine-born adventurer whose recollections of that period describe the Gold Rush from the Hispanic point of view. I contributed the true story of the 1851 lynching in Downieville, California, of a young Mexican woman, Josefa Segovia, who was summarily tried and hanged for stabbing a white miner. This was an event I had known about for a long time, as it took place not far from where I have a mountain cabin. Other sources, including poems written by Chinese immigrants from the era, archival newspaper accounts, and a few excerpts from Mark Twain’s classic “Roughing It” rounded out not only the libretto but the themes for the action as well.

What made the Gold Rush so compelling a phenomenon in the 1850s was that at its start (and long before the term came into use), it was a truly multicultural experience. Not just Anglos from the East Coast and Midwest flocked to the Land of Gold, but Mexicans, Chileans, Chinese, Hawaiians, and African Americans. And to use another familiar term, the Gold Rush was literally “live streamed” as it happened. People in New York, Boston, St. Louis, and even Paris every day read breathless journalistic accounts from the front, much of them wildly misleading and erroneous. Our cast reflects that multiracial variety of those who participated: Ned, the Black wagon driver (a real person befriended and described by Louise Clappe); Ah Sing, a Chinese immigrant who works as a prostitute in the mining camp’s funky Empire Hotel; and Ramón, the bartender, modeled in part on the recollections of Ramón Gil Navarro. And of course, there was the background presence, inevitably a melancholy one, of the Native Americans, who were already in the process of being pushed off their land. The shocking moment at the end of Act I when Joe gloats that killing Indians for five dollars a head is “a lot more profitable than working in the river and getting nothing” is taken from a true firsthand account of what would soon become an institutionalized obliteration of that population.

Louise Clappe’s nom de plume was “Dame Shirley,” and her letters written to her sister back East detail with a marvelous eye not only the rugged beauty of the Sierras but also the wild mix of personalities all thrown together in a frantic, usually futile, search for instant riches. Her letters are, to my mind, some of the most evocative writing by any American of that era, so vivid are her descriptions, so spot-on perceptive her judgments about human behavior, and so congenially witty in describing her own predicament, that of a highly educated woman forced to make do among the crudest imaginable living conditions and the random violence of her surroundings.

I found my own “gold” in the lyrics of the corny old miners’ songs from the era. These songs, with titles such as “The Gambler,” “Joe Bowers,” “Seeing the Elephant,” and “Lousy Miner” told stories of hard luck, dashed hopes, spurned love, and frequently tragic outcomes. One song, “Joe Bowers,” recounts the sad-sack tale of a young man who came to the mountains from Missouri to get rich in order to satisfy his girl Sally only to get a Dear John letter from her saying that she’d married the local butcher instead. The Joe of the song became the model for our Joe Cannon, the broken drunk whom Ah Sing sadly mistakes as a potential husband. Their story, as well as that of the others in the cast, reminds us why the term “seeing the elephant,” meaning to gain experience at often disastrous personal cost, became a common meme for those enduring the harsh, often desperate struggle that was these people’s lot.

I set these raunchy and vivid song lyrics to my own music. Sung by the male chorus, they provide much of the gusto in the opera, sometimes effervescent and at other times genuinely disturbing in a way that was brought home to me five years later when I watched on television the fury of the January 6 Capitol attack in Washington, D.C.

Every work of music drama must have its own unique atmosphere or “tonality.” Nixon in China, an opera about politics, self-inflated personalities, and staged media events, needed an extrovert, Technicolor musical score. The Death of Klinghoffer, which deals not only with a terrorist murder but also with age-old religious narratives, required a darker, more oracular expression, as did the looming vistas of the predawn New Mexico desert in the moments before the world’s first nuclear detonation in Doctor Atomic. When I thought of the simplicity and harshness of life in the California mountains of 1851, I knew I would have to express that in a music that was equally frugal, but it had also to be a music that could quickly oscillate between the inherent comedy of the song lyrics and the threatening violence of the racist rants of the white miners. That “tonality” is established from the very first bar, with the orchestra clanking away like a miner’s pickaxe. The sound of an accordion and guitar add an anecdotally familiar color to the otherwise sparse orchestration.

Girls of the Golden West may be my most personal of all stage creations. Like the characters in its story, I too am a kind of California immigrant, having arrived here from Massachusetts in my early 20s, much the same age as many of those who came here in search of gold. My search was for something else, a sense of freedom and openness and the kind of cultural mix that was absent from my New England upbringing. For 40 years I have hiked those same mountains, sometimes stumbling on the remains of an old shaft dug into the side of a steep ravine. And I too share the same sense of awe and appreciation that Dame Shirley so perfectly evokes in the opera’s very last moment—for the fathomless splendor and “never-enough-to-be-talked-about sky of California.” (John Adams)

Julia Bullock, soprano
Ryan McKinny, baritone
Davóne Tines, baritone
Hye Jung Lee, soprano
Daniela Mack, mezzo-soprano
Paul Appleby, tenor
Elliot Madore, baritone
Los Angeles Philharmonic
John Adams, conductor

John Adams
Composer, conductor, and creative thinker – John Adams occupies a unique position in the world of American music. His works, both operatic and symphonic, stand out among contemporary classical compositions for their depth of expression, brilliance of sound, and the profoundly humanist nature of their themes. Over the past 40 years, Adams’s music has played a decisive role in turning the tide of contemporary musical aesthetics away from academic modernism and toward a more expansive, expressive language, entirely characteristic of his New World surroundings.

Born and raised in New England, Adams learned the clarinet from his father and played in marching bands and community orchestras during his formative years. He began composing at age ten and heard his first orchestral pieces performed while still a teenager. The intellectual and artistic traditions of New England, including his studies at Harvard University and attendance at Boston Symphony Orchestra concerts, helped shape him as an artist and thinker. After earning two degrees from Harvard, he moved to Northern California in 1971 and has since lived in the San Francisco Bay area.

Adams taught at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music for ten years before becoming composer-in-residence of the San Francisco Symphony (1982-85), and creator of the orchestra’s highly successful and controversial “New and Unusual Music” series.

Adams has longstanding connections to both the San Francisco Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Many of his orchestral works have had their premieres with these distinguished orchestras, including Harmonium, Harmonielehre, Absolute Jest, The Dharma at Big Sur and The Gospel According to the Other Mary. Adams’s stage works, most done in collaboration with director Peter Sellars, have resulted in more than three decades of ground breaking operas and oratorios: Nixon in China (1987), The Death of Klinghoffer (1991), both to libretti by Alice Goodman, El Niño (2000), Doctor Atomic (2005), A Flowering Tree (2006), The Gospel According to the Other Mary (2012) and Girls of the Golden West (2017). Antony and Cleopatra (2022), with a libretto adapted by the composer from Shakespeare and Virgil, opened the centennial season of the San Francisco Opera in a production by Elkhanah Pulitzer.

Of his first opera, The New Yorker Magazine said, “Not since Porgy and Bess has an American opera won such universal acclaim as Nixon in China.” A 2023 New York Times Arts & Leisure cover story called Adams “arguably our greatest living composer.”

Adams has received numerous Grammy awards, many of them for his over thirty releases on Nonesuch Records. To celebrate his 75th birthday Nonesuch Records released its “John Adams Collected Works,” a 40-CD box covering his entire output since 1973.

Both Harvard and Yale universities have conferred honorary doctorates on Adams, as have Northwestern University, the Juilliard School, the San Francisco Conservatory and Cambridge University. His Violin Concerto won the 1993 Grawemeyer Award, and On the Transmigration of Souls, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic to commemorate the first anniversary of 9/11, received the 2003 Pulitzer Prize in Music.

John Adams is a much sought-after conductor, appearing with the world’s major orchestras, including the London Symphony Orchestra, the Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Berliner Philharmoniker, the Chicago Symphony, and the Metropolitan Opera. His programming combines his own works with a wide variety of repertoire ranging from Beethoven, Mozart and Wagner to Ives, Stravinsky, Carter, Glass, and Ellington.

The coming season will include a new production at the Metropolitan Opera of Adams’s El Niño in a staging by Lileana Blain-Cruz; the European premiere of Antony and Cleopatra in Barcelona, staged by Elkhanah Pulitzer; several productions of Nixon in China and Doctor Atomic in Germany and Holland; and a new Nonesuch release of Girls of the Golden West with the composer conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In March of 2024 Simon Rattle will premiere Adams’s latest orchestral work, Frenzy, with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Through his conducting and commissioning of new works, Adams has become a significant mentor of the younger generation of American composers. The Pacific Harmony Foundation, created with his wife, the photographer Deborah O’Grady, supports commissions and performances of new works and musical education initiatives throughout the country. Adams’ educational activities reach from the local (the John Adams Young Composers program in his hometown of Berkeley, California) to the national and international (the Juilliard School, the Royal Academy of Music, the New World Symphony and the Berliner Phiharmoniker Akadamie). As an advocate of young composers, Adams has conducted over 100 premieres of new works over the course of his career. He received the 2021 Ditson Conductor’s Award from Columbia University in recognition for his “exceptional commitment to American composers.”

John Adams is also a highly esteemed and provocative writer. He is a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review and has written for The New Yorker and The London Times. Hallelujah Junction, Adams’s much praised volume of memoirs and commentary on American musical life, won the Northern California Book Award for Creative Nonfiction and was named one of the “most notable books of the year” by The New York Times.

Since 2009 Adams has been Creative Chair of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

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