From Music in Cincinnati

A "Bohéme" to Love

Posted in: Reviews
By Mary Ellyn Hutton
Jun 24, 2017 - 6:51:39 PM

Cincinnati Opera's "La Bohéme" Thursday night (June 22) in Procter Gamble Hall at the Aronoff Center for the Arts left nothing to be desired. Puccini's tragedy in its 100th performance by Cincinnati Opera (updated to 1930s Paris) was touching in the extreme, each singer inhabiting his or her role with the utmost credibility.  Louis Langrée, music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, led the CSO in the pit.  Balances between the orchestra and the singers were excellent.
    This was no "star" vehicle meant to focus attention on one or more well known singers, but a true company performance.  Singing the seamstress Mimi was soprano Nicole Cabell, with tenor Sean Pannikar as the poet Rodolfo, soprano Jessica Rivera as Musetta, baritone Rodion Pogossov as the painter Marcello, bass Nathan Stark as the philosopher Colline, baritone Edward Nelson as the musician Schaunard, baritone Marco Nisticó as both the landlord Benoit and Musetta's boyfriend Alcindoro, soprano Jessica Rivera as the singer Musetta, and tenor Brandon Scott Russell as the toy vendor Parpignol.
   A co-production with English National Opera, with scenic and costume design by Isabella Bywater, the production was simple but effective, consisting of a reversible, two-story set representing the Bohemians' apartment on one side, and the exterior of the Café Momus on the other.
   It is Christmas Eve and the three Bohemians are spending the night together.  It is bitter cold and, in the spirit of fun, they are taking turns mocking each other:  Marcello by trying to paint, Colline complaining that his book sales are falling, whereupon he tosses his latest manuscript into the fireplace. Schaunard, by contrast -- flush with money, food and wine -- suggests that they celebrate at the Café Momus.  Their landlord arrives seeking rent, but they manage to avoid him, and Marcello and Colline set out for the Café.
   There is a knock at the door, their neighbor Mimi (symbolically dressed in black and white) has lost her key and Rodolfo helps her look for it.  One thing leads to another, including a ravishing duet, and Rodolfo invites her to join him at the Café.
   In act 2, outside the Café, Mimi meets Rodolfo's friends.  An argument between Marcello and Musetta, Marcello's old flame who has taken a new boyfriend, leads to their reconciliation.  Mimi and Rodolfo come to a parting of the ways in act 3, but in the last act, he rushes to her side when he hears that she is dying.  The opera ends with Rodolfo crying "Mimi" as she dies.
   The acting and singing were uniformly fine in this "Bohéme" (which drew a full house).  Musetta's waltz, sung by soprano Rivera in act 2 (one of the best known arias in the opera), was beautifully delivered, as was Colline's "aria to his coat" by bass Stark.  Tenor Russell was splendid, visually and vocally, as Parpignol.
    There was even applause for the stagehands as they turned the  set from front to back.
   In short, Cincinnati Opera opened its 97th season with distinction.   It continues June 23 with "Frida" by Rodrigo Rodríguez in Jarson-Kaplan Theater at the Aronoff  Center for the Arts.  For information and tickets, call (513) 241-2742. 



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