Magazine article Opera Canada

Vancouver Opera

Magazine article Opera Canada

Vancouver Opera

Article excerpt

One could hardly have asked for a more traditional staging of Vancouver Opera's season-opening La boheme (Oct. 20). Traditional it was, but also marvellously realistic. Designer Erhard Rom's set looked gritty enough to be the actual long-ago Parisian habitat of the story's Bohemian protagonists and the costumes almost could have been what they actually wore.

Director Nancy Hermiston built on this verisimilitude by emphasizing small but telling details of character interaction: the shy gestures and melting looks of the love-smitten Mimi and Rodolfo, the tempestuous exchanges and smouldering glances between Musetta and Marcello. It was an intimate and gentle Boheme without huge voices, grandiose scenes or gut-wrenching climaxes, and conductor Leslie Dala underpinned it all with appropriately tender, voluptuous sounds from the orchestra.

A considerable asset was the young, fresh and mostly Canadian cast, who were so eminently believable in their parts. Marianne Fiset brought an appealing vulnerability to Mimi as well as a sleek, lilting soprano that seemed to have more presence the softer she sang. She was paired adroitly with American tenor Jason Slayden as Rodolfo, and the two of them (both in their VO debuts) appeared so convincingly in love with each other that the opera's momentum was established early and never relented.

When not swooning over Mimi, Rodolfo was engaged in guyish camaraderie--hearty backslaps, guy hugs and wine quaffing--with his garret-mates: philosopher Colline was memorably depicted by Stephen Hegedus; musician Schaunard was sung with aplomb by Aaron Durand: and painter Marcello was portrayed with dash and sensitivity by Etienne Dupuis. The latter was particularly engaging, especially in his fiery exchanges with Musetta, sung with smoky intensity by Krisztina Szabo. If her Musetta seemed larger than life in comparison to the other roles, it nevertheless fitted seamlessly into the overall fabric of the production because she made the part so humanly believable.

In a production with its heart so clearly in the right place, any critical misgivings might smack of nitpicicing. But surely keeping the stage lights up full when Mimi and Rodolfo are groping in the dark for her supposedly lost key robbed this pivotal scene of its shy, tentative intimacy. …

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