Now that we have packed away our parka’s, it’s time to embrace the spring. There is nothing like winking at snowy scenes in Puccini’s La Bohème, that make one wish for a little sprinkle of snow upon exiting the performance.
Puccini’s La Bohème, one of opera’s best-known love stories, illustrates that art, life, love and loss collide just as much in the present as it did for a group of struggling young artists in 19th-century Paris. Set to some of the most moving music ever composed, the story has captured the hearts of generations of audiences and inspired numerous adaptations, including the hit Broadway musical, Rent. La Bohème runs for 10 performances on April 17, 26, 28, May 2, 4, 5, 7, 11 (two performances), 22, 2019.
The Broadway musical Rent is brash, full on and overly dramatic. Puccini’s La Bohème is quiet, reflective, and perfect to get lost in during a matinee performance. It is worthy of leaving you contemplating about love and loss for the rest of your evening with a glass of wine or with a favourite book of poetry. As John Caird said in 2013 in his Director’s Notes, “Herein lies the true genius of Puccini’s achievement. By giving every one of Murger’s characters a real musical specificity, Puccini allows them to move from laughter to tears and back again with effortless ease – and his orchestral background overflows with the most lovingly crafted detail in support of their complex emotional journeys.”
A mix of rising Canadian and international stars comprise this stellar cast: American soprano Angel Blue makes her COC debut as the doomed Mimì. Blue is dynamic with a demure lens as she reflects on her life and that of her compatriots. One’s heart can’t help but start to break as her love affair with Rodolfo starts to bloom. Brazilian tenor Atalla Ayan won San Francisco Opera’s Emerging Stars Competition in 2018 plays the role of Mimì’s love, Rodolfo. Sweet, kind and keen to be vulnerable about his heart break. Canadian soprano Andriana Chuchman brings her “sure, glorious sound” (Washington Post) to the role of the lively Musetta. Chuchman, is truly epic. Fully of gusto, sauciness and perhaps an eye brow arching lens towards what is to come. American baritone Lucas Meachem performs the role of struggling artist Marcello. Hardly an easy feat but Meachem provides wonderful moments to reflect upon as he digests the pain of his artist friends.
Tony Award-winner John Caird directs this popular COC production, that was last performed in Toronto in 2014. The creative team drew visual inspiration from France’s Belle Époque period to convey characters’ rose-tinted sense of hope and absolute commitment to their art as painter, poet, musician and philosopher. The set cleverly incorporates a collage of canvases by the painter in the opera, Marcello, effectively framing the story onstage within various Parisian locales. Richly coloured lighting design is by Michael James Clark.
The staging as is usual with Canadian Opera Company performances are grand, exciting and full of pomp and circumstance. The dimly lit glow of streetlights, a working stove with a rising smoke stack, snow covered ambiances, treat laden market scenes and dark portraiture make for a cosy performance experience. The joviality that is stitched into the reality of the characters bold and colourful life space is a reminder to the audience, that we are living a Comédie humaine including of genuine laughter, sometimes angry, sometimes joyous but always mixed with tears like that of the artist’s in Puccini’s work.
Italian conductor Paolo Carignani (2012’s Tosca and 2016’s Carmen) returns to Toronto to lead the COC Orchestra through a sweeping score that includes Mimì and Rodolfo’s famously heartbreaking love duets. Italian conductor Antonello Allemandi, making his COC debut, conducts the final performance on May 22. Price Family Chorus Master Sandra Horst leads the COC Chorus through some of opera’s most memorable melodies.
Ensure you make time to breathe in Puccini’s La Bohème as we enter the Spring. Perhaps we have some new beginnings ourselves that we must nurture and perhaps let go of those that need pruning to the inspiring tune of Puccini’s epic score.
La Bohème is sung in Italian and presented by the COC with English SURTITLES™.
La Bohème is a COC co-production with Houston Grand Opera and San Francisco Opera.