A large golden moon casts shadows over the Cabot Theatre’s stage set in Paris, 1933. In this glowing new version of La Boheme, Bill Theisen, the company’s artistic director, adapts the opera to define the artistic but risqué lifestyle rampant in Paris during that decade. With Theisen’s inspiration gleaned from the photographic collection of Brassai, this fresh production, also based on Scenes de la vie de Boheme by Henri Murger, revisits bohemian France together with Giacomo Puccini’s lyrical music.
Last staged by the Skylight 40 years ago, the opera remains Puccini’s most recognized work and introduces their 2008-2009 season in celebration of the composer’s 150th anniversary. La Boheme speaks to the creative passion necessary in life as experienced by four fledgling artists while true love’s destiny intermingles with subsequent loss to change the lives of these common everyday men struggling to exist.
Beginning on Christmas Eve in 1933, this quartet of artistic individuals parties before escaping their landlord and the rent due to partake in the city’s nightlife. Fate intervenes when Rodolpho meets his neighbor, Mimi, and the pair fall fast in love with moonlight shining through the rooftop apartment. One of the other artists, Marcello, later reunites with the love of his life, Musetta, and as the year passes into springtime, each of these love stories waxes and wanes until tragedy eclipses the ending.
Each member of the young cast captures the essence of this bohemian existence with an appealing chemistry heightening the premise and passion of the opera. Michael Mayes and Brandon Wood as Marcello and Rodolpho thoroughly embrace their counterparts Danielle Hermon Wood and Alicia Berneche – Musetta and Mimi. After the intermission, the actors command the imagination of the audience, drawing them further into 1933 Paris. La Boheme finishes with an emotional flourish due to the expert acting and operatic abilities of the entire ensemble. This explains how powerful a 100-year-old piece remains potent when produced by talented artists with a passion for their work.
This Skylight production indeed becomes the perfect venue for initiating or indulging an artistic taste for the delights of opera. This story of love and loss, with lives severed short, resonates with all ages. The audience was enchanted opening weekend, attentive to the stage resounding with English instead of Italian but moved by the intense performances. These Parisian scenes honor the Skylight’s tribute to Puccini’s beloved La Boheme, a story confirming the belief that discovering an uncommon love in an ordinary world endures. VS
The Skylight Theatre’s production of La Boheme continues until October 5 in the Cabot Theater of the Broadway Theatre Center. For tickets call 414-291-7800 or visit the Skylight online.