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Lavish 'La Boheme' ends HOT's season


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POSTED: Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Hawaii Opera Theatre concludes its 50th-anniversary season with a lavish production of the ever-popular classic “;La Boheme.”; Puccini's magnificent score captures the passion, humor and pathos of this tale of young, countercultural Parisian artists whose love binds them but whose jealousies repel them. The two leads are caught in a dilemma that only death can solve.

HOT's production pulls out all the stops to re-create the vivid life of the 19th-century Latin Quarter of Paris. The magnificent scenery's verisimilitude draws the audience into the events onstage. The viewer is effectively transported from the high sprits of the lively street life in front of the Cafe Momus in the second act to the chill and damp of the December snow in the third.

The costumes are equally impressive. The audience rightly applauded the set at the opening of each new scene, for it plays a role as important as the singers in telling the story.

The fine cast acted as well as they sang. The band of idealistic artists included Rodolfo the poet, played by handsome tenor Derek Taylor, who possesses an attractive voice but a light one that is not consistently heard above the orchestra. Baritone Etienne Dupuis as Marcello the painter, bass-baritone John Marcus Bindel as Colline the philosopher and baritone Leon Williams as Schaunard the musician play the comrades who share Rodolfo's garret apartment.

Dupuis has a stunning, powerful voice and a confident stage presence. Bindel provided a moving “;Vecchia zimarra”; in Act 4 as he prepared to pawn his old coat to pay for medicine for the dying heroine. Williams continues to delight Honolulu audiences with his distinctive acting and refined singing. His Schaunard is memorable as both humorous and likable.

               

     

 

”;LA BOHEME”;

        Presented by Hawaii Opera Theatre:
       

» Place: Blaisdell Concert Hall
        » When: 7:30 p.m. today
        » Tickets: $29 to $120
        » Call: 596-7858 or (800) 836-7372

       

Russian-American soprano Olga Chernisheva plays Rodolfo's love interest, the delicate seamstress Mimi. Her rich voice provides a Mimi who is less innocent and slightly more streetwise than other singers might present. She spanned the full range of emotions, from a passionate lover in “;O soave fanciulla”; to the softer tones of the dying heroine in her heart-wrenching “;Sono andati?”; Soprano Evelyn Pollock is captivating as lusty courtesan Musetta. She owned the stage during her performance of Musetta's waltz, “;Quando me'n vo.”; Her beautiful voice is an excellent match for Dupuis', and these two made a perfect couple visually and vocally.

Local talents included tenor Laurence Paxton playing the double role of the easily fooled landlord Benoit in Act 1 and Alcindoro, Musetta's aging sugar daddy, in Act 2. Both were played to comedic perfection. Fellow tenors Kaweo Kanoho and Elika Santos completed the local cast.

The chorus, prepared by Nola Nahulu, sang handsomely and matched the lushness and precision of the orchestra. This was most notable in the second act as the chorus not only punctuated the narrative with their singing, but also provided a bustling backdrop for the main characters. This scene had no small parts, as waiters, street urchins, diners and shoppers were engaged in the action without distracting from it.

Director Karen Tiller pulled it all together with a perfect sense of timing. Conductor Michael Ching made the orchestra soar and brought out all the ardor and color the score has to offer.

This stunning production of “;La Boheme”; is a wonderful way to end HOT's 50th season. This is the kind of production that opera-goers love and one recommends to friends who might not like opera. The story is compelling, the music is beautiful, the acting convincing and the sets, lighting and costuming are a feast for the eyes. This is “;verismo”; opera at its best.

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Gregg Geary is head of Sinclair Library and music librarian at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where he is completing his Ph.D. in musicology.