La Bohème is known as the most popular opera in the world. Every opera company has a production it keeps ready to revive and occasionally mounts or brings in a new one. The Los Angeles Opera is now reviving its wonderful production, staged originally by the famed film director Herbert Ross. Evidence of the director’s film background is everywhere in his staging and in the sumptuous set by Gerard Howland.
The scenes are directed to emphasize the characters’ relationships, but Ross also moves the action around – inside, outside, on the stairs, even to indoor chambers for the courtyard scene. The only scene that didn’t work for me was the one in front of the curtain before they all go into Café Momus. It just looked crowded. Also, the long pauses during set changes made me wish our stage were more flexible, like the Met’s in New York.
Singing is what La Bohème is all about, and I thoroughly enjoyed the two young singers making their LA Opera debuts. Mimi was sung by the lovely Maija Kovalevska. Her voice was matched in sensitivity and beauty by the Italian tenor Massimo Giordano, whose renditions of many of the famous arias brought tears to my eyes.
The response seemed a bit tepid from the LA audience, which is accustomed to superstars in the roles; the last time, it was the super-couple Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu. And the production is not as glorious as the Baz Lurhmann staging at the Ahmanson a few years back.
But suddenly, at the end of the new revival, the audience rose to its feet with a roar. Apparently they, like me, had been so moved by the music that a loud outburst had seemed inappropriate. Because of the audience’s restraint, we got to hear the piece as a whole rather than as a series of arias and bravos.
The leads were ably supported by Luca Salsi as Marcello, Oren Gradus as Colline, and a local singer, Brian Leerhuber, whose voice I found particularly pleasing. Laquita Mitchell sang Musetta. She was rather restrained in the part but brought a nice dignity to the usually coquettish role. Hermut Haenchen conducted.
La Bohème plays in repertory with Mozart’s Don Giovanni at the LA Opera through December 16, with two casts alternating as the young bohemians. (213) 972-7219Powered by Sidelines