Dutch National Opera presents

Girls of the Golden West John Adams (1947)

This show was to been seen in February 2019

Heroism in a hardscrabble world

Duration 3:15

Breaks 1

By John Adams

Language English

Surtitles Dutch and English

Dutch National Opera presents Girls of the Golden West by the celebrated American composer John Adams. After the successes of Nixon in China and Doctor Atomic, Adams once again joins forces with legendary director Peter Sellars.

Gold Rush

Girls of the Golden West is set in the hardscrabble world of the miners who went to dig for their fortunes in the 1850s California Gold Rush. Simmering racism and sexism come to a head one Independence Day to end with the death of a Mexican barmaid, Josefa. The shocking narrative, based on authentic sources including gold miners’ songs, eyewitness accounts by writers like Louise Clappe and Mark Twain, and newspaper articles, is told from the perspective of the doctor’s wife, Louise Clappe, aka Dame Shirley.

© Cory Weaver, San Francisco Opera
© Cory Weaver, San Francisco Opera
© Cory Weaver, San Francisco Opera
© Cory Weaver, San Francisco Opera
© Cory Weaver, San Francisco Opera

American identity

About Girls of the Golden West, Peter Sellars said in the New York Times: ‘These true stories of the Forty-Niners are overwhelming in their heroism, passion and cruelty, telling tales of racial conflicts, colourful and humorous exploits, political strife and struggles to build anew a life and to decide what it would mean to be American.’


Peter Sellars and John Adams

The first co-production by Peter Sellars and John Adams performed at DNO was the groundbreaking Nixon in China (1988). There, as later in Doctor Atomic and now in Girls of the Golden West, the narrative fabric is woven from authentic sources. A politically engaged director, known for his modern take on classic and contemporary operas, Sellars was awarded the Erasmus Prize for his contributions to European culture. Currently he teaches World Arts and Cultures at the University of California in Los Angeles.

Team and cast

Grant Gershon leads the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra in Girls of the Golden West, his DNO debut, with a cast including Julia Bullock (The Rake’s Progress) as Dame Shirley, Davóne Tines (Only the Sound Remains) as Ned and Paul Appleby (Die Entführung aus dem Serail and The Rake’s Progress) as Joe.

Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra
The Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, which is one of the world's leading orchestras, distinguishes itself by the intensity of his concerts, the colorful sound and the bold way in which it approaches its audience. Rotterdams Philharmonic was founded in 1918. Chief conductor is Lahav Shani. Recent DNO productions: Faust, Benvenuto Cellini, Prince Igor and Les contes d' Hoffmann.

This is a co-commissioned co-production of Dutch National Opera, San Francisco Opera and Dallas Opera.

Team, Cast and Chorus

Grant Gershon
Stage Director
Peter Sellars
Set Designer
David Gropman
Costume Designer
Rita Ryack
Lighting Designer
James F. Ingalls
Sound Designer
Mark Grey
John Heginbotham
Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra
Dutch National Opera Chorus
Chorus Master
Ching-Lien Wu
Dame Shirley
Julia Bullock
Ned Peters
Davóne Tines
Joe Cannon
Paul Appleby (Lucas van Lierop 13 and 17 March)
Ah Sing
Hye Jung Lee
Elliot Madore
Josefa Segovia
J’Nai Bridges
Ryan McKinny
Carlos García Estévez

Peter Sellars


PETER SELLARS (director) is a renowned American theatre and opera director. He is known mainly for his unique modern stagings of classic and contemporary works, including Don Giovanni (situated in Harlem, New York), Le nozze di Figaro (in a luxurious apartment in Trump Tower) and Handel’s Orlando (in space).

John Adams


The American composer and conductor JOHN ADAMS (composition) is one of the most performed contemporary composers. He works in various genres, including electronic music, orchestral and chamber music, opera and comic musicals.

    Mon 19 Feb Girls of the Golden West, Opera Today, 2017

    “Not many (or any) of the new operas presented by San Francisco Opera over the past 10 years would lure me to the War Memorial Opera House a second time around. But for Girls of the Golden West just now I would be there again tomorrow night and the next, and I am eagerly awaiting all future productions.”(!)

    Mon 19 Feb Girls of the Golden West, Bachtrack 2017

    “In their latest opera, Girls of the Golden West, John Adams and Peter Sellars demand that their audience take a cold, hard look at the dark side of the founding of California as a US state.” “The opera is a sprawling canvas inhabited by characters of many types from many backgrounds, engaged in the rowdiness, the tawdriness, the youthful exuberance, the lewdness, the hardships and – in the end – the plain violence of those lawless days.”

    Mon 19 Feb Girls of the Golden West, ArtsSF, 2017

    “In this his fourth opera, composer John Adams reminds me of a football game that is 0-0 at the half, but ends up in a furious 42-41 score. Given major revisions for act one, this could become the resounding opera of our times.”

    Mon 19 Feb Girls of the Golden West, Limelight Magazine 2017

    “Who’d have thought an opera about the Californian Gold Rush could feel quite so contemporary?” “Receiving the San Francisco Opera Medal onstage following the well-received premiere performance, Adams took a swing at the divisive immigration policies of the Trump Administration” “It would be hard to imagine a better Dame Shirley than Julia Bullock. Her smoothly energised soprano caresses Adams’ lyrical lines while her immaculate diction ensures not a syllable of Clappe’s memorable words are lost.”

    Wed 14 Feb The Stage, 2017

    ‘Adams’ score, well played by the San Francisco Opera under Grant Gershon, is his richest and most colourful yet.’

Foyer Evening

Step into the world of the makers. Sit back with a drink in an informal setting and enjoy an aria or duet, a pas de deux or small ensemble, or an interview with a singer or choreographer. A varied programme, linked to a topical theme, is presented for each production.
NB: In principle, the foyer evenings are given in Dutch, but in practice the high number of international guests means that English is often spoken as well.

Mon 04 February Girls of the Golden West

Start: 20.30 (doors open 20.00)
Location: Odeonzaal
Duration: 60 minutes
Price: € 10, € 7,50 (Vrienden), € 5 (students)

Free for Donors, Geefkringleden of Dutch National Ballet and Patterns of Dutch National Opera & Ballet.


Get in the mood with music inspired by the performance

Folluw us on Spotify

This production is part of Opera Forward Festival and is contributed by:

Founding Partners Opera Forward Festival


Productionpartner Opera Forward Festival

Partners Opera Forward Festival

Jonge Musici Fonds, Mimi Cohen-Trijbits Fonds, Jade Fonds

Main sponsor Nationale Opera & Ballet