Burnaby Lyric Opera
Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème in Concert

Dates and Venue 23 & 25 February 2012, 8pm | James Cowan Theatre, Shadbolt Centre for the Arts, 6450 Deer Lake Avenue, Burnaby

Stage Director Matthew Bissett Musical Director David Boothroyd

Reviewer Karen Fitzgibbon

There is nothing like the artistic ambience of the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts to put you in the mood for La Bohème. The stage at the James Cowan Theatre was relaxing: blue lighting with a few folding chairs in their chosen places. A grand piano to the left of the stage set the classic tone for La Bohème. This is not a full production of the opera but a presentation of its essence with some of our young professional opera singers from BC. The Burnaby Lyric Opera Production provides opportunities for up and coming opera singers.

If this is your first opera performance, then it would be best to read up on the story first unless you speak Italian. La Bohème created by Giacomo Puccini is a love story between Rodolfo, a poet (Martin Sadd, tenor) and Mimi (Chloé Hurst, soprano). The setting takes place in an apartment in Paris. Rodolfo is constantly visited by his bohemian drinking buddies like Marcello, a fine artist.

You will not be overwhelmed by extravagant stage design as in the traditional opera. The first act starts with the artist Marcello at his easel and Rodolfo who starts to burn his books to keep the two of them warm. Yes, of course the landlord has to arrive to collect the rent. Rodolfo’s friends soon join him and the landlord leaves without the rent. Being friends of course they spend the rent money on food and wine. Sometime later Mimi, another tenant in the building knocks on Rodolfo’s door and the romance begins.

Marcello’s lover Musetta (Gina Morel, soprano) comes out on stage with a romantic red satin floor length gown and red shoes which are the only sense of life to liven up the overall impact of a dull stage. Not only does an audience need to have fine music but color on stage should never be left out if you want to stimulate the senses. Opera was created to stimulate our senses both audio and visual. The voices of these young artists were wonderful and they would have been better received if more artistic stage set endeavour had been used to enlighten and support these talented opera performers. When a person is dying as in the final act, two fold up chairs pushed together instead of a bed just doesn’t cut it.

David Boothroyd’s piano rendition would have made Puccini proud. All in all much work and many rehearsals went in to this performance. I thought the acting was more natural than in most operas and it was refreshing. All the singers presented professional voice and stage presence. The hard work that went in to attempt to master Puccini’s music was evident.

© 2012 Karen Fitzgibbon