Before “Rent” there was “La Bohème” – and now it’s back for the kick-off of Pacific Symphony’s new opera-vocal initiative, “Symphonic Voices.”
For three grand nights, the orchestra will come out of the pit and onto the stage, joined by world-class guest artists for a “semi-staged” presentation of one of Puccini’s most popular and heartbreaking operas.
Taking advantage of St.Clair’s successful career as an opera conductor in Europe, “Symphonic Voices” is meant to address the void left after the 2008 shuttering of Opera Pacific. While the Symphony does not have the financing or expertise to stage a full-fledged operatic production, it certainly can present the music.
Led by Music Director Carl St.Clair, “La Bohème’s” timeless tale of carefree Bohemians and star-crossed lovers features a cast of guest opera singers, the Pacific Chorale and the Southern California Children’s Chorus – all filling the stage with their astonishing voices.
Serving as stage director for this semi-staged production of Puccini’s most beloved opera of “La Bohème” is A. Scott Parry—hailed by Opera News as “marvelous,” “lively,” “imaginative” and “spot-on.” Parry’s productions have spanned an enormous range of repertoire from “West Side Story,” “Madama Butterfly” and “La Bohème” to “La Cage aux Folles.”
While remaining light on costumes and set, the stage will still come alive with the orchestra and a cast of magnificent voices that includes tenor David Lomeli as Rodolfo, soprano Maija Kovalevska as Mimi, baritone Hyung Yun as Marcello, soprano Georgia Jarman as Musetta, bass Denis Sedov as Colline, baritone Jeremy Kelly as Schaunard, bass Thomas Hammons as Benoit/Alcindoro and tenor Nicholas Preston as Parpignol.
“It is one of the most beloved, seen, heard, performed operas of all time! That’s why I wanted to do “La Bohème” as our first opera—it’s simply one of the greatest,” says Maestro St.Clair. “It is also one of the most difficult scores—lots of bravado. It has to have elasticity and fluidity to express the constant ebb and flow of emotions. It’s musically very powerful.”
The tale follows the troubled relationships of two couples: the poet Rodolfo and his downstairs neighbor Mimi, and the stormy affair between the painter Marcello and the beautiful Musetta, whose coquettishness camouflages her true qualities.
But most of all, the audience’s affections are captured by Mimi, not a noble heroine as she might have been in an earlier “grand” opera, but a humble seamstress and embroiderer. Her relationship with Rodolfo is shaken by her illness – “consumption,” the 19th century term for tuberculosis.
“It’s not about sets and costumes, it’s about the people,” says St.Clair. “From the sobbing Mimi to the flirtatious Musetta, the interaction of these characters paints a highly riveting and compelling story.
“The fact that our opera will be semi-staged allows for the focus to be on the relationships and for the orchestra to come out of the pit into the middle of the action. Whether you love the arias, duets, the ensembles, the waltz, the delight of children’s voices or the power of a large chorus—it has it all. It has everything it needs to be memorable.”
“La Bohème” will be performed Thursday, April 19; Saturday, April 21; and Tuesday, April 24, at 8 p.m., in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall; a preview talk with Alan Chapman begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30-$110; for more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.