Classics are classics for a reason—they are timeless, wonderful little masterpieces that resonates with the people. That being said, a company can take said classic and ruin it with some bizarre rendition that never speaks to the audience. This is unequivocally not the case with Canadian Opera Company’s production of Puccini’s iconic La Bohème. It was equal parts comedic and heartbreaking from beginning to end.
John Caird, the Canadian Tony Award-winning director, returns to the COC and triumphs with his direction of the Bohemians as we watch their stories unfold. In addition to the stellar cast, the Opera Company scored when they snagged world renowned Italian Puccini conductor Carlo Rizzi. There was not a note missed or misguided on this magical, sensorial experience.
La Bohème follows a group of optimistic, easily identifiable young bachelors as they struggle through love and loss in the streets of Paris. We follow Marcello, a free-spirited painter, Rodolfo, a quiet, weary poet, Colline, a philosopher and Schaunard a playful, generous musician. We watch as Rodolfo falls in love with Mimi, a sickly seamstress and as Marcello has his heartstrings pulled by the free-spirited, flirtatious Musetta.
Each and every part of this production works together like a well-oiled machine. The set design, executed beautifully through large scale collages of art work that creates each scene, mimics the work of painter figure Marcello and acts as a conduit to the Parisian dream world that the audience transports themselves to. The delicate set lighting created by Michael Clark softly illuminates throughout. One instance in particular, the lighting was so subtle, you couldn’t tell if it was an effect or part of the artwork that made up the scene. Such simplicity only made for a more rich experience as the lights in the painted windows dimmed. The romance, opulence and dispersions between the rich and poor were laid out within the work of costume designer David Farley who took inspiration from France’s Belle Époque.
Throughout the 12 performance run, most of the main characters are played by different singers. On the 12th, Mimi was sung by Italian soprano Grazia Doronzio while Canadian soprano Joyce El-Khoury sung Musetta’s role. El-Khoury was excellent as Musetta. From her flirtatious hips and glances to each perfectly sung note, it’s hard to imagine that she then goes on to play the demure Mimi as she is double-cast in this run of La Bohème. She sung and acted as if the role of Musetta was tailor made for her.
Rodolfo, played on the 12th by tenor Dimitri Pittas seemed likewise to be perfectly suited for the role. Each note he sung resonated with feelings of either joy or pain that made its way into the heart of the audience. Baritone Joshua Hopkins’ velvet voice matched his painter’s character as each note he sung painted a stroke of genius on the canvas of the production.
La Bohème is the perfect opera for people new to the genre and those well-seasoned. It is now one of Puccini’s best-known works and one of the most loved and performed operas in the world—with good reason when placed in the right hands. The Canadian Opera Company and everyone involved in this fine production prove that they can hit all the right notes when it comes to this classic.
La Bohème is sung in Italian with English SURTITLES™ and plays now through October 30.
For ticket info or more, please visit: coc.ca