La Boh


Canadian Opera Company: October 2013


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Photos From Canadian Opera Company's Production of 'La Bohème'
Photos by Michael Cooper
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Read Some Thoughts About the Production





La Bohème: The Canadian Opera Company's Production Delivers Excellence on All Levels
October 7, 2013

by Brian Hay

This production was dominated by the ladies, both in the story and on the stage.

Joyce El-Khoury fleshed out the character of the flirtatious (and very funny) "Musetta" with gusto and easily walked away with the first act. Her ringing soprano is extremely agile and ideally suited to the demands of bel canto singing. She added flair with extravagant use of physical gestures and captured the outward persona of the character beautifully in the process. Underneath it she countered things with subtle vocal shadings and understated gestures to depict the traits she'd reveal less openly. Joyce is cast as Mimì for four performances. It would be very interesting to see what she would do in the role.

Grazia Doronzio gave the doomed "Mimì" an angelic presence that could easily have been submerged in the first act had it not been for the ravishing quality of her singing. Her voice opens into notes like a blossom opening into a sunburst. It's an effect that's unusual at first but captivating as the ear becomes accustomed. Her range and volume are deceptive. Her voice doesn't sound that big, until she lets it go. Then, it fills the hall and her control is excellent. She revealed Mimi in layers and only revealed the full measure of the woman as the opera drew to close. It made the character more sympathetic and was very effective.

The men in the cast balanced the work of the ladies beautifully. Tenor Dimitri Pittas gave fire and pathos to the passionate, controlling and impossibly jealous "Rodolfo". His depiction of the man's rages was particularly engaging. The duets he shared with Doronzio were ravishing. Baritone Joshua Hopkins was moving and funny as the painter "Marcello". His frustration with El-Khoury's flirty (and fickle) "Musetta" was something many guys in the audience could identify with. Christian Van Horn's bass-baritone voice and physical demeanour were ideally suited to the thoughtful nature of the philosopher "Colline". Baritone Phillip Addis made good use of his comic gifts as "Schaunard", the musician. Together the four were so beautifully balanced vocally they virtually sounded like a small choir. Bass-baritone Thomas Hammons was delightful in the small role of their landlord, Benoît.

The group working with Stage Manager Stephanie Marrs insured that the scenery movement was almost impossibly smooth. Set and costume designer David Farley gave the production a wardrobe that kept it close to its roots. He had the sets assembled on a pair of rotating platforms that turned toward each other when scene changes were needed. The pieces themselves were assembled in groupings of individual units pieced together to form a larger whole. Lighting Designer Michael James Clark kept the eye squarely focused on the most important facets of the action without drawing attention to the work he'd done. His techniques were especially effective during the productions beautifully choreographed crowd scenes.

Conductor Carlo Rizzi's interpretation was buoyant. His forces were splendidly balanced to the point where the music seemed transparently clear. The work of the orchestra was impeccable capturing both the lushness of Puccini's score, the subtle nuances in the music and the primal passions at its root. Their light touch gave the comic moments something to dance to and kept the darker material in the opera from weighing it down. The choral work in the crowd scenes was delivered flawlessly under the direction of Chorus Master Sandra Horst.

Director John Caird did an excellent job of illustrating that while the plot of 'La Boheme' is simple the motivation that drives it resounds to this day. The poverty of the group is hilarious when they burn their work trying to keep warm but it points to a reality we all dread. Musetta's use of her allure was done to comic effect. The double standard she encounters from both sides as a result illustrates yet another harsh reality. With the means at her disposal Mimì could probably be saved. Without them and either without assistance from the unseen Viscount (or because she can't accept it) her life ends and the rest are shattered. Caird did all of this without becoming preachy.

With the strong performances from his cast and the brilliance of the work in all areas this a production of 'La Bohème' that works with uniform excellence at all levels. It marks a great start for the new season.

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Joyce El-Khoury as "Musetta"
From the COC'sOctober 2013 Production of
'La Bohème'

Photo by Michael Cooper

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