Girls of the Golden West Symposium

San Francisco Opera invites you to delve deep into the world of John Adams’ Girls of the Golden West with a multidisciplinary symposium featuring panel discussions, lectures and music of the Gold Rush. For more details on the four sessions throughout the day, please see the session breakdown below.


October 28, 2017
Doors open and check-in 9–9:30am


Taube Atrium Theater
Veterans Building (4th Floor)
401 Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco, CA 



Saturday 10/28/17 9:00AM


Symposium Schedule

Session 1 (9:30–10:45am)

Girls of the Golden West, the Opera

San Francisco Opera dramaturg Kip Cranna moderates a discussion with composer John Adams and librettist/director Peter Sellars about the creation of their newest operatic collaboration.

Session 2 (11am–12:15pm)

Dame Shirley and Life During the California Gold Rush

Dame Shirley expert Marlene Smith-Baranzini and San Francisco Chronicle writer, historian, and best-selling author Gary Kamiya discuss the California Gold Rush and one of its most eloquent chroniclers, Louise Clappe, whose collected letters from the mines under the pen name “Dame Shirley” are a California history classic and important source for the opera. Moderated by San Francisco Opera Dramaturg Kip Cranna.

Session 3 (1:30–3pm)

Women, Culture, and Politics in the Mining Camps

The discovery of gold in 1848 and subsequent migration of people from around the world to California fostered stories of heroism and collaboration, but the competition, scarcity, and harsh conditions also led to tensions along racial lines. Geographer and historian Mark McLaughlin, historian Christopher O’Sullivan and writer Mary Volmer explore this period from a variety of perspectives, including the Gold Rush experiences of women and immigrant miners.

Session 4 (3:15–4pm)

A Musical History of the Gold Rush

Many of the gold miners related their moving and sometimes heart-breakings stories in song. Theatre Comique, co-directed by Corey Jamason and Eric Davis, will provide a musical history of the period and performances of songs from the period sung by tenor James Hogan and baritone Radames Gil with Jamason at the piano.