|Dick Johnson||Marco Berti|
|Jack Rance||Claudio Sgura|
|Euskadiko Orkestra Sinfonikoa|
|Coro de Ópera de Bilbao|
|Music Director||Josep Caballé-Domenech|
|Scene Director||Hugo de Ana|
|Scenographer and costumes||Hugo de Ana|
|Light designer||Vinicio Cheli|
|Chorus Director||Boris Dujin|
|Coproduction||ABAO y Teatro di San Carlo di Napoli|
|*Debuting at ABAO Bilbao Opera|
The Polka saloon, at dusk. After an instrumental prelude, the voices of approaching miners can be heard in the distance. They are welcomed by Nick, the bartender of the saloon. Several of them start playing cards with Sid as the banker. Jake Wallace sings a nostalgic song which makes Larkens start to cry. They all give money so that he can return home. They realize that Sid is cheating and threaten to hang him, but Jack Rance, the sheriff, pins the two of spades to his lapel as a sign of shame and has him expelled from the saloon. Ashby arrives with the news of the imminent capture of the bandit Ramerrez. Then, a fight breaks out between Rance and Sonora, who are both in love with Minnie, the owner of the saloon and Sonora takes out a gun. Trin grabs the gun and diverts the shot. When Minnie appears the atmosphere calms down and the miners offer modest gifts to her. She starts lecturing them about the Bible. The courier arrives and Ashby asks him about Nina Micheltorena, Ramerrez’s mistress, who apparently knows his whereabouts. The men go to the adjoining dance hall and Rance and Minne are left alone. He declares his love to her and tells her about his unhappiness. She, knowing that he is married, imagines a different type of happiness, similar to that of her own childhood. Nick returns with a stranger who calls himself Johnson and who causes Rance’s immediate displeasure. Minnie, who remembers having seen him once, says that she vouches for him. They both dance a waltz, which is interrupted when Ashby and a group of men enter the saloon dragging in José Castro, one of Ramerrez’s men, who says he has deserted and promises to lead them to him. But in fact, his intention is to take the miners out of the saloon so that Ramerrez can rob inside without being disturbed. When Johnson returns, Castro whispers his plan in his ear; a whistle outside will be the signal for him to start acting. The miners get ready to go with Castro, leaving Minnie to look after their winnings. She and Johnson express their budding sympathy to each other in a duet which uses the melody of the previous waltz. He accepts Minnie’s invitation to visit her later in her cabin in the mountain and then leaves. When Nick returns, Minnie is absent-minded recalling the last words which Johnson said to her: that she has the face of an angel.
In the second act, Wowkle sings a lullaby to her child in Minnie’s cabin. It ends as a duet with Billy Jackrabbitt, since they are both vaguely thinking of getting married. Minnie asks her to prepare dinner for two and gets ready to receive Johnson. When he arrives, Minnie rejects his attempt to hug her and instead they chat politely. Johnson is about to leave but a storm makes him stay for the night. The posse led by Rance knocks on the door. Minnie hides Johnson and lets them in. Rance tells her that they are concerned for her safety, since they have found out that Johnson is in fact the bandit Ramerrez and that he is in the surrounding area. Minnie asks them to leave and asks Johnson for an explanation. He states his intention to give up his criminal life forever. Minnie can forgive the bandit, but not the man who stole a kiss pretending to be someone he was not and throws him out of her house. A shot is heard and he comes back, wounded. Minnie takes him back, hiding him in the attic. Rance returns, thinking he has found his man. Minnie dares him to find him in her home. When Rance is about to leave without finding him, a drop of blood falls on his hand. He orders Johnson to come down. He does, but soon faints. Minnie plays her last card, challenging Rance to play a game of poker with her. If he wins, he can make her his “wife”; if he loses, Johnson belongs to her. Rance accepts and is about to win when she pretends to faint; while he goes to get her a glass of water she takes out one of the cards she is hiding in her stocking and manages to beat him. He reluctantly accepts Minnie’s victory.
The third acts takes place at dawn in a Californian forest some time later. Several miners are sleeping and Nick tries to comfort Rance, praising his gentlemanly behaviour with Minnie. Distant voices arrive and awaken the bandits who happily predict the capture of the bandit. Rance thinks of his revenge whereas Ashby joins the final chase. Several miners describe Johnson’s attempts to avoid those chasing him. They finally bring him tied to his horse and Billy Jackrabbit is ordered to prepare a noose for the lynching, but he is secretly in league with Nick to take his time. Johnson defends himself against the accusation of murder and asks that Minnie never know what his final fate was in the famous aria “Ch’ella mi creda libero e lontano”, the only independent aria in the entire score, in which he expresses his wish for her to think that he has gone to a distant country to live a better life. Furious, Rance punches him but Johnson’s words have cast doubts among the miners. Minnie arrives on horseback and, after realizing that her pleas for them to take pity on Johnson are fruitless, she runs to him, takes out a gun and threatens to shoot him as well as herself. The miners’ opinion is divided but at the end Sonora breaks the balance and Johnson is released. Minnie and Johnson ride away towards a future of happiness together while the men bid farewell to their beloved “sister”.