And deftly sitting in the midst of these contradictions, Maestro Puccini has written the horse-opera of all time.
The problem with this opera, of course, is the Italian aesthetic viewing American culture. Later on, it would improve to give us the 'spaghetti western' -- which was still odd, but more understandable to an American audience. But back in 1911, Europe (as well as other cultures) admired the rough-and-tumble reports of what the Wild West was like, and fueled by the nascent cinema, saw the cowboy as a heroic figure, a stock in trade character, built-in for melodrama, with its outsider come to town, showdown with the opposing force, with wide open spaces, and the idea that one could claim something and have it be yours. You could stake a claim on a silver mine, or claim a woman as long as you could prove that you could hold on to her. Whether or not this reflects reality of the time is up for debate, but something makes up myths that are forged from grains of truth.
It was Jean Cocteau who so loved American Westerns in the cinema that he wrote a long, poetic review of "The Narrow Trail (1917)" that baffled Americans; not only was the Western trope being taken seriously but taken to be Art . So when Puccini's long cantilenas of operatic fervor wrapped around a homely tale of a girl with a heart of gold it truly was an example of cognitive dissonance that fights itself to work on the stage.