John Adams’ Girls of the Golden West with Libretto by Director Peter Sellars


From the composer of Nixon in China, The Death of Klinghoffer and Doctor Atomic, comes “the most eagerly anticipated new opera of the season” (New York Times): the world premiere of John Adams’ Girls of the Golden West. With a libretto by director Peter Sellars, the work explores the true and often brutal stories of pioneers during the California Gold Rush. Created expressly for San Francisco Opera, the opera is a co-production with the Dallas Opera and Dutch National Opera, Amsterdam. Set in historic mining sites high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains only 200 miles away from San Francisco, Girls of the Golden West premieres in the city which owes much of its early growth and enterprising spirit to the Gold Rush, a global event that attracted unprecedented multitudes from around the world. Dramatizing the 49ers’ humorous, heroic and violent experiences on California’s challenging frontier, the libretto for Girls of the Golden West is drawn from period sources including The Shirley Letters, Louise Clappe’s elegant and vivid accounts, written under the pen name “Dame Shirley,” about the rugged conditions in the gold fields; abolitionist Frederick Douglass’ speech “What to a slave is the fourth of July?”; diaries of Chilean miners; poetry of Chinese and Argentinian settlers; songs of the period; and Mark Twain’s Roughing It. Conductor and frequent Adams collaborator Grant Gershon leads the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and an exceptional cast, including Julia Bullock (Dame Shirley), Hye Jung Lee (Ah Sing), J’Nai Bridges (Josefa Segovia), Paul Appleby (Joe Cannon), Davóne Tines (Ned Peters), Elliot Madore (Ramón), Ryan McKinny (Clarence King) and dancer Lorena Feijóo (Lola Montez). Sellars anchors a production team from the worlds of opera, theater and cinema, including set designer David Gropman, costume designer Rita Ryack, lighting designer James F. Ingalls, sound designer Mark Grey and choreographer John Heginbotham. In support of the premiere, San Francisco Opera and other leading cultural institutions will present an array of public events and exhibitions from September through December, including an all-day, multidisciplinary symposium at the Dianne and Tad Taube Atrium Theater on October 28. Girls of the Golden West ancillary activities range from discussions with the opera’s creators and cast to public exhibitions and examinations of the work’s rich historical setting and sources, especially the California history classic The Shirley Letters. For a full calendar of Girls of the Golden West ancillary activities, please visit

Tue November 21, 2017
To Sun - December 10, 2017
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