SAN FRANCISCO, April 19, 2017 – Opera San José just kicked off their opening weekend of Giacomo Puccini’s “La bohème” with a memorable performance at the always stunning California Theatre. With every opera showcased, the talented Opera San José resident ensemble continually outdoes themselves.
For those of you unfamiliar with the “La bohème” storyline, it is based on the book Scénes de la vie de bohème by Henri Murger. In this production the opera’s original 19th century setting is updated, retaining the magical Parisian Latin Quarter but moving the action into the 20th century during the first Christmas following the end of World War I.
Act I opens on the first Christmas Eve following WWI as a bit of follow-up and tribute to Opera San Jose’s last production, “Silent Night,” which takes place on Christmas Eve of 1914).
We first meet a band of young “Bohemian” artists (Rodolfo, Marcello, Schaunard and Benoit), wallowing a bit in their own self-misery, but also possesing a strong sense of camaraderie.
Next we meet Mimi who spends her days embroidering and nights longing for flowers, spring and better times. Mini happens upon Rodolfo, a writer, one fateful night as she is searching for a light for her lonely candle.
Love at first sight, temporary happiness, poverty, tragedy and death are core elements to his illuminating story that weaves a tale of what life was like in the artistic community of Paris during an earlier era: poverty stricken, but hopeful for the new century.
There are very strong female parts in Bohème. Mimi, played by soprano Sylvia Lee mesmerizes the audience with her incredible range and strong delivery. From the moment you meet her, you are cheering for her to win at love and life, knowing full well that tragedy meets her end.
In the second act, we meet Musetta, played by soprano Vanessa Becerra. Musetta is the town temptress, continually luring Marcello into her world. Becerra understands and delivers on both the comedy and ego of Musetta.
Puccini was clearly trying to capture both the lightheartedness of the Parisian artistic culture, but also showcased the extreme poverty not only in their their frigid Latin Quarter flats, but in Europe over all. Yet his characters have a tight bond that is fortified through their art and friendship.
Strong performances were also delivered by tenor Kirk Dougherty (Rodolfo) and baritone Matthew Hanscom (Marcello). Their friendship is the tightest among their associates and their need for each other becomes more evident as the opera progresses.
One cannot have opera without the incredible orchestra, conductor, set design, costumes, makeup, and lighting. Hats off to Joseph Marcheso, Opera San José’s music director, and principal conductor, who conducts these performances of “La bohème.”
Opera San José’s production of “La bohème” also includes excellent sets designed by Kim A. Tolman, costumes designed by Alina Bokovikova, lighting designed by Pamila Z. Gray, and wig and makeup creations by Christina Martin.
These performances of “La bohéme” are sung in Italian with English supertitles. Only four performances remain, April 20th through the 30th. Find information and tickets at the Opera San José website. Tickets range from $55 – $175.
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