John Adams

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This first recording of John Adams’ 2017 opera, Girls of the Golden West, is his eighth music theater work to be released by Nonesuch. It tells the story of the California Gold Rush not through familiar time-worn myth, but in the words and deeds of real people. Longtime Adams collaborator Peter Sellars drew from original sources from the era—letters, journals, newspaper articles, and familiar song lyrics—to create the libretto. The composer leads the LA Phil in this recording made in Disney Hall, with the Los Angeles Master Chorale led by Grant Gershon and a cast featuring Davóne Tines, Julia Bullock, Paul Appleby, Hye Jung Lee, Elliot Madore, Daniela Mack, and Ryan McKinny.

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Girls of the Golden West, out April 26, 2024, is John Adams’ eighth music theater work to be released by Nonesuch Records. Adams’ 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

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.

The composer leads the LA Phil in this recording made in Disney Hall. The aria “Wagon Ride,” which features Davóne Tines and Julia Bullock (both also Nonesuch artists), can be heard here:

The Los Angeles Times called the opera “glorious and compelling.” After its San Francisco premiere in 2017 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.”

Girls of the Golden West features the Los Angeles Master Chorale, long familiar with Adams’ choral music, prepared by its Artistic Director Grant Gershon, and a cast that also includes Paul Appleby, Hye Jung Lee, Elliot Madore, Daniela Mack, and Ryan McKinny.

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 forty 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’ 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.”

“I set these raunchy and vivid song lyrics to my own music. Sung by the male chorus, they provide much of the gusto in the opera,” Adams says. “There are resonances with earlier works of mine like Nixon in China and Grand Pianola Music, but by now I also detect traces of the Brecht-Weill mix of theater, popular song, and opera. This is a dream cast, and no orchestra in the world knows my music better than the Los Angeles Philharmonic.”

Composer, conductor, and creative thinker John Adams occupies a unique position in the world of American music. His works stand out among contemporary classical compositions for their depth of expression, brilliance of sound, and the profoundly humanist nature of their themes.

Among Adams’ works are several of the most performed contemporary classical pieces today: Harmonielehre, Shaker Loops, Chamber Symphony, Absolute Jest, Short Ride in a Fast Machine, and his Violin Concerto. His stage works, most in collaboration with director Peter Sellars, include Nixon in China, The Death of Klinghoffer, El Niño, Doctor Atomic, A Flowering Tree, the Passion oratorio The Gospel According to the Other Mary, and Girls of the Golden West. Adams’ most recent opera, Antony and Cleopatra, featuring a libretto adapted by the composer from Shakespeare’s tragedy, received its European premiere at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in fall 2023 in a production directed by Elkhanah Pulitzer and conducted by Adams. This season, Adams’ Frenzy for orchestra receives its world premiere with the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle, who tour the work to multiple cities in Europe.

Adams is the 2019 recipient of the Erasmus Prize “for notable contributions to European culture, society and social science”—the only American composer to be so honored in the prize’s sixty-one-year history. As an advocate of his composer colleagues, Adams has conducted the premieres of more than 100 new works ranging from composers such as Philip Glass, Terry Riley, Wolfgang Rihm, Julia Wolfe, and Michael Gordon to works by young emerging composers. He received the 2021 Ditson Conductor’s Award from Columbia University in recognition of his “exceptional commitment to American composers.” Adams has additionally received honorary doctorates from Harvard, Yale, Northwestern, Cambridge, and The Juilliard School. Since 2009, he has held the position of Creative Chair with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. A provocative writer, he is author of the acclaimed autobiography Hallelujah Junction; his writings have appeared in both the New Yorker and the New York Times Book Review.

As a conductor of his own works and wide variety of repertoire, Adams has appeared with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Wiener Symphoniker, the New York Philharmonic, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the orchestras of Seattle, Cleveland, and Rotterdam. In 2022, Nonesuch Records released the forty-disc John Adams Collected Works, a box set of recordings spanning more than four decades of the composer’s career with the label.

Peter Sellars is internationally renowned for his groundbreaking and transformative interpretations of classics, advocacy of 20th century and contemporary music, and collaborative projects with an extraordinary range of creative and performing artists. He has staged operas at the Dutch National Opera, English National Opera, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, Opéra National de Paris, Salzburg Festival, and San Francisco Opera. Sellars has collaborated on the creation of many works with composer John Adams, including Nixon in China, The Death of Klinghoffer, El Niño, Doctor Atomic, The Gospel According to the Other Mary, and The Girls of the Golden West. He has guided the creation of premiere productions of Kaija Saariaho’s L’amour de loin, Adriana Mater, and Only the Sound Remains, and staged works by Olivier Messiaen, Gyorgy Ligeti, Paul Hindemith, Osvaldo Golijov, and Tan Dun.

Under the leadership of Music & Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel, the LA Phil offers live performances, media initiatives and learning programs that inspire and strengthen communities in Los Angeles and beyond. The Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra is the foundation of the LA Phil’s offerings, which also include a multi-genre, multidisciplinary presenting program and such youth development programs as YOLA (Youth Orchestra Los Angeles). Performances are offered on three historic stages—Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Hollywood Bowl and The Ford—as well as through a variety of media platforms. In all its endeavors, the LA Phil seeks to enrich the lives of individuals and communities through musical, artistic and learning experiences that resonate in our world today.

This recording is generously supported by the Lenore S. and Bernard A. Greenberg Fund.

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Latest Release

  • April 26, 2024

    This first recording of John Adams’ 2017 opera, Girls of the Golden West, is his eighth music theater work to be released by Nonesuch. It tells the story of the California Gold Rush not through familiar time-worn myth, but in the words and deeds of real people. Longtime Adams collaborator Peter Sellars drew from original sources from the era—letters, journals, newspaper articles, and familiar song lyrics—to create the libretto. The composer leads the LA Phil in this recording made in Disney Hall, with the Los Angeles Master Chorale led by Grant Gershon and a cast featuring Davóne Tines, Julia Bullock, Paul Appleby, Hye Jung Lee, Elliot Madore, Daniela Mack, and Ryan McKinny.

Releases

News

  • February 29, 2024

    Girls of the Golden West, John Adams’ eighth music theater work to be released by Nonesuch, is due April 26. The composer leads the LA Phil in this recording made in Disney Hall, with the Los Angeles Master Chorale led by Grant Gershon. You can hear the aria "Wagon Ride," featuring Davóne Tines and Julia Bullock, now. For the opera, which tells the story of the California Gold Rush, longtime Adams collaborator Peter Sellars drew from original sources from the era—letters, journals, newspaper articles, and familiar song lyrics—to create the libretto. The cast also includes Paul Appleby, Hye Jung Lee, Elliot Madore, Daniela Mack, and Ryan McKinny.

  • February 21, 2024

    The Metropolitan Opera has announced its 2024–25 season, including the Met premiere of John Adams's latest opera, Antony and Cleopatra, on May 12, 2025. The adaptation of Shakespeare’s drama stars soprano Julia Bullock, following her company debut in Adams’s El Niño this April, as Cleopatra, opposite bass-baritone Gerald Finley’s Antony. Adams himself conducts a new staging by director Elkhanah Pulitzer, who transports the story from ancient Rome to the Golden Age of Hollywood in the 1930s. Performances run through June 7, 2025. 

Tour

Tue, Apr 16
Los Angeles, CA
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Tue, Apr 16
Los Angeles, CA
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Thu, Nov 14
New York, NY
Wu Tsai Theater, David Geffen Hall
Thu, Nov 14
New York, NY
Wu Tsai Theater, David Geffen Hall
Sat, Nov 16
New York, NY
Wu Tsai Theater, David Geffen Hall
Sat, Nov 16
New York, NY
Wu Tsai Theater, David Geffen Hall
Tue, Jan 28
Los Angeles, CA
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Tue, Jan 28
Los Angeles, CA
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Mon, May 12
New York, NY
The Met Opera
Mon, May 12
New York, NY
The Met Opera

Photos

About John Adams

  • Girls of the Golden West, out April 26, 2024, is John Adams’ eighth music theater work to be released by Nonesuch Records. Adams’ 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

    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.

    The composer leads the LA Phil in this recording made in Disney Hall. The aria “Wagon Ride,” which features Davóne Tines and Julia Bullock (both also Nonesuch artists), can be heard here:

    The Los Angeles Times called the opera “glorious and compelling.” After its San Francisco premiere in 2017 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.”

    Girls of the Golden West features the Los Angeles Master Chorale, long familiar with Adams’ choral music, prepared by its Artistic Director Grant Gershon, and a cast that also includes Paul Appleby, Hye Jung Lee, Elliot Madore, Daniela Mack, and Ryan McKinny.

    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 forty 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’ 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.”

    “I set these raunchy and vivid song lyrics to my own music. Sung by the male chorus, they provide much of the gusto in the opera,” Adams says. “There are resonances with earlier works of mine like Nixon in China and Grand Pianola Music, but by now I also detect traces of the Brecht-Weill mix of theater, popular song, and opera. This is a dream cast, and no orchestra in the world knows my music better than the Los Angeles Philharmonic.”

    Composer, conductor, and creative thinker John Adams occupies a unique position in the world of American music. His works stand out among contemporary classical compositions for their depth of expression, brilliance of sound, and the profoundly humanist nature of their themes.

    Among Adams’ works are several of the most performed contemporary classical pieces today: Harmonielehre, Shaker Loops, Chamber Symphony, Absolute Jest, Short Ride in a Fast Machine, and his Violin Concerto. His stage works, most in collaboration with director Peter Sellars, include Nixon in China, The Death of Klinghoffer, El Niño, Doctor Atomic, A Flowering Tree, the Passion oratorio The Gospel According to the Other Mary, and Girls of the Golden West. Adams’ most recent opera, Antony and Cleopatra, featuring a libretto adapted by the composer from Shakespeare’s tragedy, received its European premiere at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in fall 2023 in a production directed by Elkhanah Pulitzer and conducted by Adams. This season, Adams’ Frenzy for orchestra receives its world premiere with the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle, who tour the work to multiple cities in Europe.

    Adams is the 2019 recipient of the Erasmus Prize “for notable contributions to European culture, society and social science”—the only American composer to be so honored in the prize’s sixty-one-year history. As an advocate of his composer colleagues, Adams has conducted the premieres of more than 100 new works ranging from composers such as Philip Glass, Terry Riley, Wolfgang Rihm, Julia Wolfe, and Michael Gordon to works by young emerging composers. He received the 2021 Ditson Conductor’s Award from Columbia University in recognition of his “exceptional commitment to American composers.” Adams has additionally received honorary doctorates from Harvard, Yale, Northwestern, Cambridge, and The Juilliard School. Since 2009, he has held the position of Creative Chair with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. A provocative writer, he is author of the acclaimed autobiography Hallelujah Junction; his writings have appeared in both the New Yorker and the New York Times Book Review.

    As a conductor of his own works and wide variety of repertoire, Adams has appeared with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Wiener Symphoniker, the New York Philharmonic, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the orchestras of Seattle, Cleveland, and Rotterdam. In 2022, Nonesuch Records released the forty-disc John Adams Collected Works, a box set of recordings spanning more than four decades of the composer’s career with the label.

    Peter Sellars is internationally renowned for his groundbreaking and transformative interpretations of classics, advocacy of 20th century and contemporary music, and collaborative projects with an extraordinary range of creative and performing artists. He has staged operas at the Dutch National Opera, English National Opera, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, Opéra National de Paris, Salzburg Festival, and San Francisco Opera. Sellars has collaborated on the creation of many works with composer John Adams, including Nixon in China, The Death of Klinghoffer, El Niño, Doctor Atomic, The Gospel According to the Other Mary, and The Girls of the Golden West. He has guided the creation of premiere productions of Kaija Saariaho’s L’amour de loin, Adriana Mater, and Only the Sound Remains, and staged works by Olivier Messiaen, Gyorgy Ligeti, Paul Hindemith, Osvaldo Golijov, and Tan Dun.

    Under the leadership of Music & Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel, the LA Phil offers live performances, media initiatives and learning programs that inspire and strengthen communities in Los Angeles and beyond. The Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra is the foundation of the LA Phil’s offerings, which also include a multi-genre, multidisciplinary presenting program and such youth development programs as YOLA (Youth Orchestra Los Angeles). Performances are offered on three historic stages—Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Hollywood Bowl and The Ford—as well as through a variety of media platforms. In all its endeavors, the LA Phil seeks to enrich the lives of individuals and communities through musical, artistic and learning experiences that resonate in our world today.

    This recording is generously supported by the Lenore S. and Bernard A. Greenberg Fund.

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