Thursday, September 18, 2008

Kansas City Lyric Opera: La Boheme

Opera in Kansas City certainly was not new, but it took a great leap forward on September 29th, 1958 when the Lyric Opera of Kansas City mounted its very first production, Puccini's "La Boheme". 50 years almost to the day, the Lyric began its 50th season and anniversary celebration with the same beloved opera. Ward Holmquist, Music Director conducted.

Thankfully eschewing the Lyric's recent trend to mount controversial (read Euro-inspired, such as the hideous "Aida" and the strange Thomas "Hamlet" of the past couple of seasons), Boheme received a charming, lively, passionate, well acted and attractive production.

Director Ellen Douglas Schlaefer felt that "Boheme" was a young person's story, thus the major characters were all sung by performers in their 20s (or so). Mimi, Rodolfo, Marcello et. al, she argued, were not midlife crisis cases but young people finding their way in a hostile environment, ruled not by logic but by passion, love and a live-for-today spirit. Indeed the spirit of Jonathon Larson's Broadway hit "Rent", based on the story of Boheme, permeated the production. Luckily this "Boheme" was not a "Rent" with the original music, but a faithful production, certainly demonstrating why "Boheme" is for many the ne plus ultra of opera.

The young cast was in good voice and all were superb actors. Especially noteworthy was the Rodolfo Michael Fabiano. His lyrical tenor voice, rich and expressive, and excellent stage presence makes this 24 yr old a talent to watch. Alyson Cambridge was an expressive, vivacious yet ultimately tragic Mimi. Lighter voiced Katrina Thurman was a hoot as the flirtatious Musetta, making the most of some of the opera's lighter moments. The remaining cast were also well sung and particularly well acted. Sets were thankfully period and a delight to the eye. Thankfully this was not a "Boheme" set in a bar in Borneo or on a spaceship to Mars, as is so much the trend these days.

"La Boheme" was fitting production to start an anniversary season. Opera lovers in KC are looking forward to the season's future productions of Handel's "Julius Cesar", "La Traviata" and "Pirates of Penzance"; a series of favorites from the last 50 years of Opera in the City of Fountains.

1 comment:

Tony said...

Great review Don. I linked.