Composer John Adams’ “Girls of the Golden West” explores gender and racial tension during the California Gold Rush. It plays the San Francisco Opera through Dec. 10. In the photo, Adams is seated at a table, leaning on his hand with a smile and holding a writing instrument.

The sound of fortune-hunters’ pickaxes digging for gold in 1850s California marks the opening scene of “Girls of the Golden West” by composer John Adams. In creating the opera, Adams and librettist Peter Sellars drew heavily on the letters of a doctor’s wife, Louise Clappe, who exposed the brutality toward women and ethnic tensions that broiled under the optimism of the Gold Rush. Adams joins us in-studio to discuss “Girls of the Golden West,” which plays the San Francisco Opera through mid-December.

John Adams, composer, “Girls of the Golden West”

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Composer John Adams’ ‘Girls of the Golden West’ Portrays Dark Underbelly of Gold Rush Era 30 November,2017Michael Krasny

  • Scott Whittaker

    Fluids of the Golden State

    Thar’s gold in them universities
    For a musical word man grand:
    A diversity of language perversity,
    A garden of gems to be panned!


Michael Krasny

Michael Krasny, PhD, has been in broadcast journalism since 1983. He was with ABC in both radio and television and migrated to public broadcasting in 1993. He has been Professor of English at San Francisco State University and also taught at Stanford, the University of San Francisco and the University of California, as well as in the Fulbright International Institutes. A veteran interviewer for the nationally broadcast City Arts and Lectures, he is the author of a number of books, including “Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary Life” (Stanford University Press) “Spiritual Envy” (New World); “Sound Ideas” (with M.E. Sokolik/ McGraw-Hill); “Let There Be Laughter” (Harper-Collins) as well as the twenty-four lecture series in DVD, audio and book, “Short Story Masterpieces” (The Teaching Company). He has interviewed many of the world’s leading political, cultural, literary, science and technology figures, as well as major figures from the world of entertainment. He is the recipient of many awards and honors including the S.Y. Agnon Medal for Intellectual Achievement; The Eugene Block Award for Human Rights Journalism; the James Madison Freedom of Information Award; the Excellence in Journalism Award from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association; Career Achievement Award from the Society of Professional Journalists and an award from the Radio and Television News Directors Association. He holds a B.A. (cum laude) and M.A. from Ohio University and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin.

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