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Nonesuch Records releases the premiere recording of John Adams’s opera Girls of the Golden West, featuring the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by the composer.

Girls of the Golden West, made available on April 26, 2024, is John Adams’s eighth music theater work to be released by Nonesuch Records. Adams’s stage works are among the most performed contemporary operas of our time and include Nixon in China, The Death of Klinghoffer, El Niño, and Doctor Atomic.

The Financial Times calls the recording “first-rate" and “played here with tremendous pizzazz. Most of the leading roles are taken by the same singers as at the premiere and all are excellent.”

> Listen to Girls of the Golden West

The composer leads the LA Phil in this recording made in Disney Hall. Girls of the Golden West also features the Los Angeles Master Chorale, long familiar with Adams’s choral music, prepared by its Artistic Director Grant Gershon, and a cast that includes Julia Bullock, Davóne Tines, Paul Appleby, Hye Jung Lee, Elliot Madore, Daniela Mack, and Ryan McKinny.

The Times praised the cast and orchestra’s “winning fervour under the composer’s direction,” while The Guardian lauds the recording for its “rich and energetic mix.”

Girls of the Golden West is a California opera, telling the story of the Gold Rush not through familiar time-worn myth, but in the words and deeds of real people: in the words of Mark Twain, “the strangest population, the finest population … who ever trooped down the startled solitudes of an unpeopled land.”

Longtime Adams collaborator Peter Sellars drew from original sources from the Gold Rush era: letters, journals, newspaper articles, and familiar song lyrics to create the libretto.

Following its world premiere in 2017, the Los Angeles Times called the opera “glorious and compelling.” After the San Francisco premiere and a production at the Netherlands Opera, Adams revised the opera significantly. Writing about this new, dramatically more compact, version, Mark Swed wrote in the Times, “The Disney concert performance … went straight for the gut.”

Adams says, “Girls of the Golden West?may be my most personal of all my stage creations. Like the characters in its story, I too am a kind of California immigrant … For 40 years I have hiked those same mountains … And I 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.’”

In the recording’s liner note, Jake Wilder-Smith adds, “Adams’s score [highlights] the profane humor and mawkish sentimentality of the Gold Rush songs that he incorporates throughout the opera, which rise to almost sublime heights in his high-octane and inventive settings of the songs. During the Gold Rush, these lyrics were sung to the tune of recycled melodies from Stephen Foster standbys like ‘Camptown Races’ or ‘Oh! Susanna.’ Now, set anew to music that is pure, unadulterated Adams, they release a static charge long dormant within them; the resulting sparks and flares contribute to the opera’s electric energy.”

>  Further information on Work: Girls of the Golden West

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