Two titans in the modern-day world of opera -- composer John Adams and director/librettist Peter Sellars -- are working together on a new opera about women during California's Gold Rush that will premiere in San Francisco next year, according to the San Francisco Opera (SF Opera).
SF Opera director David Gockley announced the commission of Girls of the Golden West Tuesday morning, highlighting the fact that the work will feature a libretto from Sellars, who is also directing.
The new opera, which is reportedly based on factual events, follows three women living in a small mining town during the Gold Rush of the 1850s, a period in time Adams has called "California's first bubble."
The story idea came to Sellars while he was researching another project set during the Gold Rush era.
"While I was doing research to create a new production of Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West for a European company, I uncovered a treasure trove of fascinating historical and literary descriptions of accounts from the California Gold Rush, unveiling vivid and fascinating personalities, events and situations," Sellars 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 anew a life and to decide what it would mean to be American."
Adams, a Bay Area resident, and Sellars have worked together on operas that are considered part of the American canon, including Nixon in China and Doctor Atomic.
"When longtime colleagues John Adams and Peter Sellars approached me with their idea of a new opera set in the period of the California Gold Rush, I was very delighted with the opportunity to present the world premiere here in the city created in large part by the 1849 Gold Rush," Gockley said. "The invigorating originality of John’s music paired with the inventiveness of Peter’s staging and libretto promise to make this opera an exhilarating new addition to the repertoire."
Gockley, who also commissioned Nixon in China in 1987, is retiring from the SF Opera at the end of the 2015-16 season.