La BohËme, Manitoba

Three performances of the quintessentially romantic opera based on
Henri Murger’s ScËnes de la Vie de BohËme were held April 5 – 11
at Winnipeg’s Centennial Concert Hall.

Canadian opera/theatre director Brian Deedrick, who also helmed MO’s
April 2013 production of Aida, once again displayed his clear
artistic vision and deft attention to detail, including adding effective
bits of stage business to create further textural layering.

Realistic sets by Wolfram Skalicki (on loan from Edmonton Opera), lit by
Bill Williams, included a cutaway garret worthy of any starving artist and
jaw-dropping Latin Quarter street-cafÈ and city park scenes complete with
gently falling snow. Maestro Daniel Lipton led the Winnipeg Symphony
Orchestra through Puccini’s lushly orchestrated score that teems with one
soaring melody after another.

Marking her MO debut, American soprano Danielle Pastin imbued her lead
role of MimÏ with heart-wrenching pathos, her clear voice and artfully
executed phrasing first displayed during tender aria “Mi chiamano MimÏ.”
As she became increasingly wrought with “consumption,” her voice only grew
in luminosity until her final, poignant duet sung with Rodolfo: “Sono

Rodolfo performed by Eric Fennell (MO debut) often felt eclipsed by the
orchestra and rest of the strong cast, his otherwise fine lyric tenor not
always fully projecting and perilously close to becoming subsumed during
aria “Che gelida manina.” He fared better during ensemble
numbers, such as the sparks-flying quartet “Addio dolce
svegliare alla mattina!” where the two lead couples contrapuntally play
off eacher other.

American tenor Keith Phares (MO debut) delivered a standout performance
as smock-wearing artiste Marcello, Rodolfo’s friend and lover
of saucy playgirl Musetta. He painted his character with
testosterone-fuelled swagger, brooding about love with Rodolfo during duet
“O Mimi, tu pi˘ non torni.”

The perfectly cast Winnipeg soprano Lara Ciekiewicz first flounced
onstage as Musetta with her hapless “mummy” and sugar daddy, Alcindoro
(bass-baritone David Watson, doubling as landlord Benoit) before
delivering an effervescent “Quando me’n vo’.” The gifted actress embarked
on her own emotional trajectory that ends when she reveals a beating heart
of gold during the final act.

And the Act’s finale where the choristers join Musetta in her lilting
waltz is opera at its most lump-in-the-throat, glorious best.

Bass-baritone Giles Tomkins (MO debut) also crafted a convincing
philosopher Colline, who particularly shone during aria “Vecchia zimarra,”
as did baritone Peter McGillivray as musician Schaunard. The male
ensemble’s camaraderie became palpable as the four flatmates jousted with
baguettes and mused about life, love and how they were going to make next
month’s rent.

Opera’s calling card is spectacle, and the MO Chorus (prepared by
Tadeusz Biernacki), Children’s Chorus (Carolyn Boyes) augmented by a
motley crew of ragtag supernumeraries created enthralling eye candy during
Act 2’s street scene, including their lively “Aranci, datteri! Caldi i
marroni!” Gendarmerie, street urchins, a marching band, Pierrot character
and an all-too-fleeting appearance by toy vendor Parpignol (reprised by
Winnipeg’s Peter Klymkiw) added to the full-bore sensory experience that
elicited audible gasps from the audience.

Holly Harris

image_description=La Boheme [Image courtesy of Manitoba Opera]
product_title=La BohËme, Manitoba
product_by=A review by Holly Harris
product_id=Above image courtesy of Manitoba Opera