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January 25,  2004



Theater Reviews

 

"Give My Regards to Puccini"

 

 

 

     

LOS ANGELES, CA - The magic of Broadway and the finesse of Puccini come together in this stunning production of  Baz Luhrmann's  La Boheme.  Having premiered on Broadway in 1990, this dazzling production makes its Los Angeles debut at the Ahmanson Theatre.  Giacomo Puccini's famous La Boheme is a favorite among opera audiences, but in Baz Luhrmann's masterful hands, the story is beautifully re-envisioned to reach out to younger audiences and to those who rarely, if ever, see operas.   

Baz is known to popular audiences for directing dazzling films such as Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge.  He brings a kind magic to the stage  that is usually reserved for the big screen.  The singers are enveloped by stunning sets which come to life under the fine lighting direction of Nigel Levings.  The true essence of Paris is felt:  the sparkling night-life juxtaposed with the dark, cold streets of the city--the same two worlds of Mimi's life. 

The story is a familiar one to fans of the opera.  Rodolfo, an impoverished young poet and his best friend Marcello, a painter, live in a cold, damp flat on top of a Paris building. 

Across the way lives the beautiful, yet frail Mimi who falls in love with Rodolfo after asking him to light her candle on this snowy Christmas Eve.  Rodolfo's friends, played by Daniel Webb, Daniel Okultich and Tim Jerome beg him to go out to the Cafe Momus, a popular night spot on The Left Bank.   The ensemble sequence during the first part of Act I is exquisite.  

True to Baz's vision of casting young players close to the ages of their characters in Scenes de la Vie de Boheme, the singers are in their mid-20's but are vocally exceptional.  Because of the vocal demands of the score, the lead players can only perform their role safely three times a week.  Playing the part of Rodolfo on this particular evening,   David Miller captivated the audience with his  spectacular tenor voice. Together with his co-star Kelly Kaduce, playing Mimi, they turned up the heat with their Act I duet.   

Watching the crew transform the set into the streets of Paris for Act II was quite a sight.  All the while the characters were wandering about the stage waiting for their big crowd scene.  Then the lights came up, the music soared and suddenly Paris was alive with a fantastic energy.  Though the opera has very few moments for the full cast, their presence made the production shine.  Notable performances were that of Musetta (Chloe Wright), singing the famous aria of Act II, and the charming chorus of children interspersed among the action.  

 

The drama is heightened in Act III, when the estranged Mimi and Rodolfo discover that pain and loss are destined to be a part of their love.  With Mimi's health failing, they struggle to hang on to the short time they have together.  Having rekindled his relationship with the fiery Musetta, Marcello tries to help his friends while facing the jealousy of his own relationship.  Hearing these four glorious voices singing Puccini's passionate quartet was certainly a highlight of the evening.  

 

Hats off to musical director Constantine Kitsopoulos and his associate conductors.  The phrasing and dynamics were tasteful and true the vision of the composer, and the blend with the singers was perfect. If you closed your eyes it sounded like the  recording of any leading opera company.  With the sets and costumes suggesting a more modern time (1950's), and the up-to-date English subtitles, everyone will enjoy this splendid production.  The Center Theatre Group, the Ahmanson Theatre and Baz Luhrmann have brought life to the "greatest love story ever sung." 

 

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For Ticket Information:

 www.centertheatregroup.com  

 

 

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