Girls of the Golden West


"You have no idea of this wild and barbarous life." –Dame Shirley


In "the most eagerly anticipated new opera of the season" (The New York Times), John Adams and Peter Sellars’ latest collaboration follows people from all over the world who flock to Gold Country hoping to strike it rich but are quickly caught up in the optimism, greed and prejudices of a rapidly changing world. Dame Shirley is an East Coast transplant chronicling life in the camp.  Ah Sing, a Chinese immigrant, works as a prostitute but dreams of a better life. Ned Peters is a cowboy and former slave who never quite feels safe. And Josefa Segovia is a young Mexican barmaid whose act of self-preservation will change them all forever.

Music by John Adams | Libretto by Peter Sellars, drawn from original sources

Sung in English with English supertitles


Eureka! Triumphant new John Adams gold rush opera premieres in SF

The Mercury News

[Girls of the Golden West] deserves to be seen.


…Julia Bullock…her crystalline voice is one of the most beautiful of the production.


Bass-baritone Davóne Tines gives a knockout performance as Ned.

The Mercury News

J’Nai Bridges makes an indelible impression as the regal, plush-voiced Josefa.

The Mercury News

San Francisco Opera has done an admirable job featuring young, diverse, stand-out talent.


Also praiseworthy [was] the ballet dancer Lorena Feijóo, who as Lola Montez was captivating while unfurling her 'Spider Dance' atop the tree stump; Ian Robertson’s all-male choristers, who ruled the mining camps with stentorian gusto; and conductor Grant Gershon, who guided the orchestra with the right blend of nuance and power.

SF Examiner

Adams’ score…is an engrossing mix of lyrical tunes and propulsive drive.

The Mercury News



Pre-Opera Talks

Free to Ticketholders 

For every performance, join us in the Orchestra section 55 minutes prior to curtain.

The Expert: Clifford Cranna

Learn about the opera’s music, characters, composer and historical background. With special guest Peter Sellars (11/21–12/5) and John Adams (12/7–10).


Can’t make the Pre-Opera Talk? You can also watch a video. Watch Clifford Cranna and Peter Sellars and Clifford Cranna and John Adams.


Cultures and personalities collide in the crucible of the California Gold Rush.

Read Complete Synopsis ›

Post-Show Discussion

November 24 and December 2

Join us after select performances to discuss the opera and reflect on the world premiere. Discussions will be held in the Littlefield Lounge on the 2nd floor of the Opera House (next to the Opera Shop). Free for ticket holders.


Check out public educational events exploring the themes and subject matter of John Adams’ new opera, Girls of the Golden West.

See full listing of events

Cast & Creative

Dame Shirley Julia Bullock *
Ned Peters Davóne Tines *
Joe Cannon Paul Appleby
Ah Sing Hye Jung Lee
Clarence Ryan McKinny *
Josefa Segovia J'Nai Bridges
Ramón Elliot Madore
Lola Montez Lorena Feijóo


November 21, 24, 26, 29; December 2, 5, 7, 10, 2017

Composer John Adams
Librettist/Director Peter Sellars
Conductor Grant Gershon *
Set Designer David Gropman *
Costume Designer Rita Ryack *
Lighting Designer James F. Ingalls
Sound Designer Mark Grey
Chorus Director Ian Robertson
Choreographer John Heginbotham *

* San Francisco Opera debut

World premiere production

Co-commissioned and co-produced with the Dallas Opera and Dutch National Opera, Amsterdam. Girls of the Golden West is presented by arrangement with Hendon Music, Inc., a Boosey & Hawkes company, publisher, and copyright owner.

Scene from Girls of the Golden West

Girls of the Golden West Program Articles

Striking Gold

The new John Adams opera reunites the composer with director and librettist Peter Sellars and takes an unflinching look at the California Gold Rush.


With Girls of the Golden West, composer John Adams revisits his musical roots.

The Dark Side of the Gold Rush

The crucible of the Gold Rush and its ensuing culture clash offer lessons for today.




November 18–December 9

The Ring

The Ring

Summer 2018



November 4–22

Made Possible By

John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn; Bertie Bialek Elliott; Jane Bernstein and Bob Ellis; Leslie & George Hume; The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem, through the Emerging Stars Fund; and an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

     Art Works | National Endowment for the Arts 

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Photo (top): San Francisco Opera production of Girls of the Golden West/Cory Weaver.