photo: Carol Rosegg
City Opera's current La Boheme is set in Paris as usual but it's been time-shifted forward to the early months of World War I: the conceit makes for some fresh stage imagery and business but it's occasionally at odds with the narrative. (Why does Mimi fumble around with that unlit candle when there's electricity in this garret?) But once you look past the minor glitches that result from the directorial concept, this production of Boheme is heartfelt and intimate, with staging that more often than not plays the big emotional moments far downstage for the sake of immediacy. I prefer it for theatricality and for dramatic impact to the opulent Zefferelli production that is still in rotation next door at the Met. Inna Dukach and Dinya Vania, as Mimi and Rodolfo respectively, convinced as lovers in both joy and anguish and had their share of soaring musical moments together; their moonlit snowfall duet at the end of Act I was especially tender and well-articulated. So soon, but there were already handkerchiefs out in the audience. The best singing and the most vivid characterizations came, however, from this production's Musetta (Elizabeth Caballero) and Marcello (Brian Mulligan); they generated so much heat as the fiery often-fighting couple it's a wonder the snow didn't melt at the sight of them.
I saw La Boheme at City Opera's OPERA FOR ALL festival, a start-of-the-season tradition now in its third year that prices all seats opening weekend in the opera house at twenty five bucks. As always, it's a quick sell-out. This year, the company is going to carry that spirit into the whole season and offer at least fifty front orchestra seats for twenty five bucks each *at all performances*; details here. I predict a roaring success. New productions this coming season include Purcell's King Arthur, directed and choreographed by Mark Morris and costumed by Isaac Mizrahi, a fresh Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci directed by Stephen Lawless which will nod to the Italian neo-realist cinema of Rossellini and Visconti, and the American opera Vanessa by Samuel Barber starring Lauren Flanigan. Other highlights include major revivals of Verdi's Falstaff and Handel's Agrippina and familiar titles like Tosca, Don Giovanni, Carmen and, of course, La Boheme in rep. Opera for all indeed.