Friday, July 16, 2010

Though Puccini set "La Fanciulla del West" in a California gold mining town, the details don't quite convince. A passel of goldminers hang around the local saloon singing about how much they miss their mothers and listening to Minnie, the town's sole female, read from the Bible.

By far the strangest disconnect, though, comes with the entrance of the bandit Ramirez. A regular customer beats him inside, and he tells the crowd that a stranger from San Francisco is approaching. He drinks his whiskey mixed with water, the man sings in disbelief. That's ridiculous! the others agree. What kind of a pansy would do something like that? Minnie shakes her head. "Why, we'll show him things that'll curl his hair!" she trills.

Well, word gets out to Ramirez, because a minute later he throws open the saloon doors and, dripping machismo, all swarthy in black leather, swaggers forward.

"Who wants to curl my hair?" he asks.

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