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29.9.07

La Bohème, B Cast


Arturo Chacón-Cruz (Rodolfo) and Sabina Cvilak (Mimi), La Bohème, Washington National Opera, photo by Karin Cooper
This is a review of the B cast of the new production of La Bohème from Washington National Opera. For an assessment of the A cast, see the Ionarts review of opening night.

Tuesday evening’s interesting production directed by Mariusz Treliński of Puccini’s well-known La Bohème abandoned the spirit of Bohemianism. Set in a modern urban loft large enough to bowl, each character appeared conventionally fashionable and seemingly loaded with money given both the huge video projector and big-screen TV on the set. Also absent was the artistic oppression symbolized by the army breaking up the party at Café Momus at the end of Act II. Although the snare drums were heard, the libretto was altered to represent a fireworks show as the reason for the scene’s break-up, while it seemed like no shock that the huge bill was slyly dumped on Alcindoro (Michael Nansel) by Musetta (Alyson Cambridge) at the end of the party. The amount of pleasure in this production was not balanced by an equal extreme of pain, starvation, and shivering coldness; hence, the production did not match the musical score, which musically slams back and forth between desperation and bliss.

Other Reviews:

Daniel Ginsberg, Second Cast Gives First-Rate Account Of 'La Bohème' (Washington Post, September 21)

David Patrick Stearns, 'La Bohème' goes Sick and the City (Philadelphia Inquirer, September 20)
In an effort to increase the intensity of the orchestra, conductor Emmanuel Villaume’s gestures led to an abundance of speed and volume that not only over-powered the singers but often left them behind. Arturo Chacón-Cruz's upper-register tone as Rodolfo was often forced. Mimi (Sabina Cvilak) had very good stage presence and stability of sound. Their infatuation with each other was most brilliantly expressed when Rodolfo followed Mimi around the set while videotaping her, with the picture projected live on the big screen in black and white. Alyson Cambridge (full disclosure: we went to school together) portrayed a convincingly hedonistic Musetta. As Colline, Günther Groissböck's announcement that he was leaving the loft to pawn his gray and black silk bathrobe (he would have originally pawned his old coat filled with books) near Mimi’s death for funds to purchase medicine had nice depth, though Groissböck’s intonation was less than solid. If they are not Bohemians, what is the point?

Two performances of La Bohème remain at the Kennedy Center Opera House: this evening (September 29, 7 pm) and tomorrow afternoon (September 30, 2 pm). Both are sold out.

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