Opera Review: ‘The Girl of the Golden West’ Hits Detroit

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
~~~Ben Franklin


I’m trying to get myself edumacated. So, when I saw that a relatively obscure, but highly underrated Giacomo Puccini opera was coming to Detroit, I decided it had my name on it.

Ben Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” He’s so right. Right AF. So, and it might help that I’m a bit OC, before I went to the Detroit Opera House last Saturday to see the opera, I watched the 1938 movie of the same name on YouTube.

Hollywood actually developed the story and the characters better than the opera. Buddy Ebsen (of Beverly Hillbillies fame) played Alabama, who fell in love with Mary, played by the golden-throated Jeanette MacDonald, whose rendition of the “Ava Maria” in a big Catholic church in Monterey, California was spellbinding. It’s worth the $2.95 YouTube made me put on my card just for that; and seeing Buddy Ebsen as a young man was pretty cool, too.

But there’s nothing like live opera. The love story of Millie and Ramirrez/Dick Johnson was well told, and the operatic voices of the players was uplifting and exhilarating.

In both the movie and the opera, love triumphs over all; and that is always beautiful.

It was cool when Alabama puffed on Ramirez’s cigar in the movie (only one “r” for Ramirez in the movie.) Buddy might not have gotten to play the Tin Man in “The Wizard of Oz;” but he sure nailed the part of Alabama in “The Girl of the Golden West.”

Ramirrez puffs on a stogie in the opera, too, a Havana offered by his true love, Minnie, in her cabin on the mountain.

The Opening Night audience gave the opera and the players a long, well-deserved standing “O.”

It was the first performance by conductor Stephen Lord since his appointment as Principal Conductor of the Detroit Opera House; and his ecstasy was infectious. A light shone on him in the orchestra pit the entire performance; and it added to the magic of the night that he was always in the spotlight along with Minnie and Ramirez, and the rest of the cast.

The music of Puccini was beautiful and danced beautifully in sync with the western love story.

It’s definitely a wonderful opera to see for anyone who’s ever been in love!

If you’ve never been in love, stay home and watch some reruns of Jerry Springer’s recent game show called “Baggage” instead. You deserve each other.


Nelson Eddy as Ramirrez and Jeanette MacDonald tore it up on screen with their molten love. (1938 film)


Buddy Ebsen was almost the Tin Man.


Buddy Ebsen and Jeanette MacDonald sing a song together in the movie version.


Buddy Ebsen’s character Alabama had a major crush on Minnie; but she fell in love with the bad boy Ramirrez. Alabama took it like a man, saving Ramirrez from capture out of love for Minnie.