Posts Tagged ‘La Boheme’
The 2012 Season of the State Opera of Sout Australia will be launched this Thursday.
The season is rumoured to consist of three operas. One romantic, one serious and one just fun.
Puccini’s LA BOHEME with James Eggleston as Rudolfo in the Gale Edwards production.
Offenbach’s ORPHEUS IN THE UNDERWORLD with David Hobson as Pluto, Adam Goodburn as Orpheus, Amelia Farrugia as Euridice, Douglas McNichol as Jupiter and Joanna McWaters as Cupid
An opera in four acts by Giacomo Puccini
Libretto by Guiseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica
Performance on Tuesday, 12th July 2011 in the Opera Theatre of the Sydney Opera House.
Conductor Shao-Chia Lu
Director Gale Edwards
Set Designer Brian Thompson
Costumes Julie Lynch
Lighting John Rayment
Rudolpho Ji-Min Park
Marcello Andrew Jones
Colline David Parker
Schaunard Shane Lowrencev
Benoit John Bolton Wood
Mimi Takesha Meshe Kizart
Musetta Taryn Fiebig
Alcindoro Adrian Tamburini
Parpignol Benjamin Rasheed
Customs Sergeant Malcolm Ede
Customs Officer Clifford Plumpton
Opening to great fanfare (literally) last night, Opera Australia presented the 7th new production in it’s history of Puccini’s classic tear jerker – LA BOHEME, in the Opera Theatre of the Sydney Opera House. The foyers were abuzz with the beautiful people (all slim Mr Terracini), glitterati, opera fans and supporters for the premiere of the much hailed new production that opened in Melbourne earlier this year. The foyer was bathed in purple light, festooned with giant flower arrangements, the red carpet was rolled out, numerous photographers snapped away, canapes were being served, extras from the Cafe Momus scene roamed the foyer as members of the brass section of the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra played fanfares and quadrilles featuring excerpts form the opera. The stage was truly set for a glorious night of magical operatic theatre.
Director Gale Edwards, at pains to break free of the stereotypes associated with many productions of BOHEME set in it’s traditional setting of Paris, and seeking to reinvigorate the work has set it in Berlin in 1929 during the height of the Weimar Republic. A time and place where decadence, poverty and sexual freedom provides the required environment for the hedonistic life style of the bohemians and allows the most romantic of operatic stories to unfold.
The stage was initially covered by an act cloth of a dusky crimson stage curtain with the words “LA BOHEME” spelt out in light globes. At curtain rise the audience was presented with an overly large half octagonal room in disarray and half painted by Marcello with a gigantic mural partially covering the walls of the room, which is also the inside of a spiegeltent. The room is spartan with almost no furniture. Our first Bohemians are Marcello and Rudolpho. Andrew Jones substituting for an ill Jose Carbo as Marcello was vocally and dramatically superb. His presence commanded the whole first scene and his sonorous and rich baritone filled the Opera Theatre with ease. It was hard to believe sitting in the back row of the circle that his voice was not amplified. The young Ji-Min Park, previously a Jette Parker Young Artist with the Royal Opera Covent Garden, was initially a tentative Rudolpho pacing his voice and performance, but opened up his performance and voice to marvellous dramatic effect as the performance progressed. Schaunard was portrayed as a fop, presumably based on his early comments in the libretto about returning from entertaining an older gentleman. This seemed a little jarring to me, but as Anna Russell used to say – “you can do anything in opera, so long as you sing it”! Shane Lowrencev sounded a little out of voice, and not his usual reliable self at the opening. David Parker as Colline proved yet again that he has made the correct decision to take on opera as a full-time career. His more than ample and well rounded voice easily carried through the theatre and he sang an excellent and moving’coat aria’ in the final act.
Needless to say the audience was waiting in high expectation for the heroine of the piece to arrive. Takesha Meshe Kizart certainly did not disappoint. Looking ravishing and singing equally so, she could easily have stolen the show in lesser company. Her rich spinto now sounds like a young Jessie Norman, except with a more beautiful top. The performance definitely picked up with her arrival. ‘Che gelida manina’ and ‘si, mi chiamano Mimi’ were beautifully and effectively sung. The final duet between Kizart and Park, I am sure sent shivers down the spine of everyone in the audience. The final tableau, with the final notes of the duet being sung with the couple almost in silhouette outside, and framed by the large double doors at the back of the set, was novel and extremely theatrical.
The second act transformed initally into a street scene with panels from the octagonal walls of the spiegeltent folding out to create a streetscape then brilliantly transforming yet again to gasps and applause from the audience, into the interior of a Berlin Cabaret coloured in rich crimson and complete with theatre boxes on the octagonal walls. This Cafe Momus scene was richly peopled with topless ‘hostesses’, a lesbian couple in one box and even a Goebels look alike with his entourage in another . The entrance of Musetta and her waltz song were extremely well staged. Taryn Fiebig as Musetta was simply magnetic and a show stopper, as the scene demands. Her glorious voice was rich, warm and honeyed, and her delivery of the waltz song while singing into an old fashioned microphone was electric, concluding with Musetta posed in her silver bejewelled dress in a pose reminiscent of Marlene Dietrich in ‘The Blue Angel’. She has never sounded or acted this well.The act finished with the rousing on stage band, this time performed by an all-women band made up of members from the Nazi Youth Movement leaving an edge to the scene and reminding the audience of the inevitable downfall of the high point of the Bohemian’s existence, but also the coming fall of the Weimar Republic.
Act three, set at the city tollgate during the continued winter and a snow fall, again featured the walls of the spiegeltent, this time filled with wire mesh filling the octagonal panels. The development of the story and characters was well managed and created clear story telling. The progression of the characters and the glorious singing made this probably the most effective act. The final act places the audience back in the Bohemian’s studio. Marcello has finished painting his mural around all the walls. The consumptive Mimi is bought back to them by Musetta who is afraid she is near death from her now obvious consumption. The final scene was again gloriously sung and acted by this well cast and well matched ensemble leading to an agonising death scene.
The smaller roles of Benoit and Alcindoro were also well sung and acted by John Bolton Wood and Adrian Tamburini, particularly John Bolton Wood whose well sung and detailed characterisations are always a highlight of any production.
The final curtain aroused a torrent of cheering and applause, the size of which I have not heard in many years, and causing an almost non-ending string of curtain calls. This was a grand opening of a new production that I am sure will grace stages in Sydney and Melbourne for many years to come. So it should. The production is very opulent and rich. Nothing seems to have been spared on the scenery and exquisite costumes and props, and it is said that Opera Australia has to make $7,000,000 on the production for it to be a success. I have no doubt this will happen. Whether it is better than the landmark previous productions of LA BOHEME from 1970 (directed initially by Bernd Benthaak and designed by Tom Lingwood) or the 1990 Baz Luhrmann directed and Catherine Martin designed production is a moot point. Personally I think the 1970 and 1990 stagings slightly better, but this production is more gloriously sung.
The Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra were in top form conducted by Taiwan born conductor Shao-Chia Lu, who paced the opera in true Italianate form.
One final word, this production is stunning – don’t miss it!
The brilliant American soprano, Takesha Kizart has scored a memorable, and big success in LA BOHEME at the Metropolitan Opera, New York. This was her Met debut.
The delightful Ms Kizart was the breathtaking Tosca in the Alden “shabby little shocker” production of TOSCA for Opera Australia in 2010. Australian audiences (who have already virtually adopted her into their hearts and psyche) will be seeing and hearing her glorious voice again as Mimi in Gale Edwards new Berlin 1930′s Spiegeltent production of LA BOHEME for Opera Australia in April and July.
Here is Katesha as Musetta in the final scene from the Met LA BOHEME.