By Robert D. Thomas
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
This article was first published today in the above papers.
Los Angeles Opera’s production of Puccini’s La Boheme
May 12, 23, 26 and 31 at 7:30 p.m. May 20 and June 2 at 2 p.m.
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles
Information: 213/972-8001; www.laopera.com
The husband-and-wife team of Stephen Costello and Ailyn Pérez will perform the lead roles in Los Angeles Opera’s revival of its production of Puccini’s La Boheme, which opens May 12 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.)
If you’re one of those who rolled their eyes and muttered “Oh, no, not another La Boheme,” when Los Angeles Opera announced that the Puccini potboiler would be the final opera in the 2011-2012 season, you might want to re-assess your reaction.
True, Puccini’s timeless tragic love story of young Parisian artists is one of the most performed works in the repertoire, a fact that presents plusses and minuses. It’s a perfect introduction for those who have never seen an opera and LAO’s revival of this Herbert Ross production has several intriguing factors to recommend it even for opera regulars.
Chief among the virtues are the cast members, all of whom are young enough to actually look the part (not as easy as it sounds, says director Greg Fortner). Moreover, given that opera casts are assembled years ahead of time, LAO has managed to strike gold in that two of the leading characters have won major competitions in the past few months.
Ailyn Pérez, who portrays Mimi, was named winner of the 2012 Richard Tucker Award and Janai Brugger, Musetta in the first three LAO performances, was one of the five winners of the recent Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions held in New York City last month. In a sign of LAO vitality, Brugger, Valentina Fleer (who will sing Musetta in the final three performances) and Museop Kim (Schunard) are all members in this year’s LAO Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program.
Another intriguing aspect to the casting is that Pérez will be partnered by her husband, Stephen Costello, as Mimi’s lover, Rodolfo. Costello (who won the Tucker Award in 2009) and Pérez met in 2003 at Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts, starred together in a 2005 AVA production of “La Boheme,” fell in love and eventually were married in 2008. Pérez is the first Hispanic to win the Tucker Award.
Fortner, who is a member of the Metropolitan Opera’s directing team and has credits at many other companies, will be directing Boheme for the first time. “I realize that many people will have seen Boheme before and some will come with preconceptions about how the piece should look and play,” says Fortner. “One of the first things we did as a cast was sit down and talk through our thoughts and preconceptions and find a way to make this production uniquely ours.”
They will be aided by the veteran hand of conductor Patrick Summers, artistic and music director of Houston Grand Opera and principal guest conductor of San Francisco Opera. The production — originally created by film director Herbert Ross — is familiar to LAO “veteran” patrons; this will be the sixth time that this “Boheme” has been presented in the company’s 26-year history, a total of 43 performances. The story — and the opera — never grow old.
For another look at the cast, read David Mermelstein’s story in the Los Angeles Times HERE.
(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.