Who’d have thought an opera about the Californian Gold Rush could feel quite so contemporary? Even its composer, John Adams, admitted he didn’t see that coming when he started work on his latest magnum opus during the early days of Donald Trump’s tilt at the White House. Receiving the San Francisco Opera Medal onstage following the well-received premiere performance, Adams took a swing at the divisive immigration policies of the Trump Administration; his only comfort, he maintained, was living in California. In fact, though the historically refracted Girls of the Golden Westis a far cry from the relative topicalities of Richard Nixon, the hijacking of the Achille Lauro or even the testing of the first atomic bomb, with themes of patriotism, the American Dream, integration, racism and the thorny question of what constitutes being an American placed stage front and centre, I doubt you’ll see a more chilling reminder of the simmering forces that can lead to an explosion like Charlottesville anytime soon.

Girls of the Golden West, San Francisco Opera Ryan McKinny, Paul Appleby and Elliot Madore in  Girls of the Golden West. Photo © Stefan Cohen/San Francisco Opera

Director and long-time Adams...