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La Bohème

One of the challenges of staging La Bohème is finding a believable balance between the extreme poverty of the principles versus the robustness of their voices (and often their physical appearance). Of course, theatrical craft is integral in creating this illusion. Yet, as opera has been presented to us for generations, the physical appearances of the characters and the acting itself has taken a back seat to the quality of the voice. While the competition for the entertainment dollar has intensified, particularly as the money supply has been purposefully contracted by the financiers, leading opera companies, including Central City Opera, have increased their attention to the performers' physical appearance and acting skills, in an effort to compete; still, the principle objective of opera remains rightfully the quality of the voice, supported by the orchestral and the theatrical elements.

Elizabeth Caballero as Mimi and Eric Margiore as Rodolfo
Elizabeth Caballero as Mimi
and Eric Margiore as Rodolfo
Photo: Mark Kiryluk
In Central City Opera's current production of La Bohème, an extravaganza of vocal talent fills the stage and, in a fortuitous, well-planned bonus on opening night, was broadcast live on KVOD-FM, by Colorado Public Radio (KCFR). As the story unfolds, Rudolfo (Eric Margiore), in a poetic burst, describes the scene: smoke lazily rising from every house in view, except their own. Magiore's nimble Italian and warm tenor serve notice that we are in for some wonderful arias.

Deborah Selig as Musetta and Troy Cook as Marcello
Deborah Selig as Musetta
and Troy Cook as Marcello
Photo: Mark Kiryluk
Rudolfo, the poet, along with his friend Marcello (Troy Cook), the painter, make light of their poverty, keeping warm by burning the latest drama Rudolfo has penned. Cook's expressive baritone bemoans his relationship with Musetta (Deborah Selig), whose seductive powers give her suzerainty over any man. Later, when we hear Selig sing, we agree.

Meanwhile, Colline (Ryan Speedo Green), the philosopher, arrives empty-handed, unable to pawn his books on Christmas Eve. Green's luxuriant bass thrills at each of Colline's passages throughout the evening. Just as the threesome burns Act II of Rudolfo's play for one last meager combustion of warmth, lo, a train of provisions arrives, headed by Schaunard (Chris Carr), the musician, who just finished three days of employment, playing for a dying parrot. Carr's melodious story is a hoot!

(Left to right) Schaunard as Chris Carr, Eric Margiore as Rodolfo, Thomas Goerz as Benoit, Ryan Speedo Green as Colline, and Troy Cook as Marcello
(L to R) Chris Carr as Schaunard,
Eric Margiore as Rodolfo, Thomas Goerz as Benoit,
Ryan Speedo Green as Colline,
and Troy Cook as Marcello
Photo: Mark Kiryluk
After getting the landlord (Thomas Goerz) drunk enough to derail his rent collection, the friends depart for Café Momus, minus Rudolfo, who stays behind to work on his new magazine. In the midst of a frustrating writing session, a timid knock at the door changes everything. Mimi (Elizabeth Caballero), pale and with a cough, asks if Rudolfo can re-light her candle. Okay, perhaps the symbolism is a bit forced, but in Italian opera, which surpasses our soaps for melodrama without batting an eye (save for Rudolfo's metaphor regarding Mimi's beautiful orbs, "two thieves"), this works in spades. Cabellero's soprano is sweet music to our ears, redoubled in duets with Margiore.

The Colorado Children's Chorale shines bright with holiday cheer in the Noël festivities at Café Moma. Maestro John Baril leads the Festival Orchestra in a primo rendition. In many ways, the '30's setting distracts from the original. The poverty of the artists has nothing to do with the economy, boom or bust; it has to do with the lack of value that societies (and particularly the financiers who control them) place upon living artists, much as Mark Twain lampooned in Is He Dead?. Despite their poverty, Parisian bohemians, particularly women, are hardly dowdy, as Mimi's house dress seems.

Central City Opera's production of Giacomo Puccini's La Bohème runs through August 11th, in repertory with Rogers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma!, Benjamin Britten's The Turn of the Screw, and Gian Carlo Menotti's The Medium, through August 12th. 303-292-6700 or centralcityopera.org.

Bob Bows

 

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