Local Arts

Go behind the scenes to an Old West saloon, being built near Gastonia

Opera Carolina's The Girl of the West

Opera Carolina Maestro James Meena and Director of Production Michael Baumgarten at the Opera Carolina Gastonia set location. Opera Carolina is producing "The Girl of the West," its next show, in collaboration with Italians. The production is some
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Opera Carolina Maestro James Meena and Director of Production Michael Baumgarten at the Opera Carolina Gastonia set location. Opera Carolina is producing "The Girl of the West," its next show, in collaboration with Italians. The production is some

You need a saloon if you’re heading out West, right?

And if you’re planning to take that saloon to Italy with you, you need it to be sturdy.

So head out West with us – toward Ranlo, to be specific – and take a look at what Opera Carolina’s putting together for its next production, Puccini’s “The Girl of the West.” (OK, “La Fanciulla del West.”)

The sets are being built in the opera’s Scenic Studio, a huge former mill on Spencer Mountain Road, under the supervision of the opera’s director of production, Michael Baumgarten. Digital projections are key, says Baumgarten, using six projectors to blend together a 48- by 26-feet visual (and there’s a surprising effect involving gunfire). All will be used in Charlotte in April, then head north for partner New York City Opera’s season-opener in September.

Then, “we put it on a tanker and we send it across the Atlantic to Italy,” says James Meena, general director of Opera Carolina; there, it’ll be used in five Italian theaters in OC’s first international collaboration.

Costumes, meanwhile, are being put together by a Venice atelier, and will come to Charlotte for the April premiere.

Storywise? Think “Gunsmoke, High Noon and literary bodice-rippers with Fabio on the cover” says Opera Carolina’s description: “a hard-drinkin’, poker-playin’ bona fide Western” – but a feminist one, by OC’s lights: Star Minnie owns the saloon, takes no guff and, yep, gets to ride off into the sunset.

The production runs April 23, 27 and 29 and tickets are $20-$154.

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