Tomer Zvulun directs this show about these artsy wanna-be’s who live in a crumby loft in Paris. Rodolfo is a writer, his pal Marcello is a painter, Schaunard is the musician and Colline is a philosopher. They are sort of on their heels a bit since they’re broke, as usual, and freezing as it’s Christmas Eve and the fire has gone out.
Just in time, Schaunard shows up fresh from a recent gig with a nobleman who hired him to serenade a parrot into bird-heaven. He brings with him food and drink and the guys start to party. Schaunard suggests they really live it up, and after a brief interlude where they booze up then bamboozle the landlord who came to collect some back rent, three of them set off for the Cafe Momus.
Rodolfo stays behind for a while because he’s on deadline for something he’s grinding out for The Beaver, some ill-paying publication. Enter Mimi, the girl downstairs whose candle has gone out and she can’t see much as she gropes for her key. Boy meets girl, boy and girl grope in dark, boy and girl fall for each other, and the happy couple go off to join the gang at the cafe.
You will then meet the vamp, Musetta, who is Marcello’s former lover, and the town flirt. Musetta wants Marcello back, and Rodolfo wants Mimi. Boy gets girl, boy loses girl. Boy learns girl is seriously ill; boy and girl meet up again, rekindle the love and agree to stay together until the Spring. By now both Marcello and Rodolfo are in the dumps having each gained then lost their loves.
While the two guys are crying in their wine, here comes Musetta who by now is friends with Mimi and she clues them in that Mimi is deathly ill. In fact, the girl collapses on the stairs by the door to the loft. They bring her in, send one of the guys to fetch a doctor, and some of the others contribute some of their meager possessions to buy Mimi a hand warmer to ease her pains. Alas, Mimi expires before the doctor arrives.
That’s the story. If you’ve heard any opera you’ve probably heard some of La bohème (The Bohemian). The music is totally sublime. You can close your eyes and be transported to heaven by the score which is so wonderfully conducted by Arthur Fagen. I’ve seen La bohème many times and I have never, seen a better stage setting. The scenery is as much a treat to the eyes as the music is to the ears. Erhard Rom, who designed these sets should win an award for them. The loft is somewhat sparse but works very well, and the street scene in Act II is superb. The street urchins, traders, clowns, and others are a delight. This production comes by arrangement with the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, and the Seattle Opera. It is great when these companies can work together, and now we have some local theatres following suit.
The singing? After all that is what opera is about isn’t it? Each of the principals is excellent. Rodolfo (Gianluca Terranova) is the strongest voice of the men, and Trevor Scheunemann who sings Marcello blends well with him. Colline (Nicholas Brownlee) and Schaunard (Theo Hoffman) are are the other male leads. The gals will knock your socks off! Mimi (Maria Luigia Borsi) can pull your heart apart as she goes from depression to discovery, to desperation to expiration. And Leah Partridge is Musetta, the very symbol of flirtation is delicious and strong, and when she sings Musetta’s waltz you know why the guys of Paris are at her feet.
I couldn’t end this without mentioning the children’s chorus. They light up Act 2 in a wondrous fashion under the direction of Charles Braugh. In fact this production has a bigger children’s chorus and a much smaller contingent of marching soldiers than most, and I liked it a lot better.
If you love opera, you will love La bohème. If you don’t like opera, you will learn to appreciate it if you go see La bohème. Performances art at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center, and you can grab more info and tickets at AtlantaOpera.org