BWW Review: LA BOHEMÈ - Austin Opera Shines With Puccini Favorite
Over the last couple of years reviewing opera with BroadwayWorld, I have become a fan. Not only a fan of the classical work but a fan of Austin Opera and the sumptuous productions they bring to the stage. It makes my heart soar to hear the first strains of the orchestra conducted by the amazing Peter Bay and watch the curtain rise on pure magic.
LA BOHÈME premiered in 1896 and became an immediate classic. It's story is so popularly timeless the musical RENT modernizes the story for non opera audiences. The characters are so well developed that we laugh and cry with them throughout the performance. Rodolfo (Kang Wang) is the typical poor poet who burns his work in the fire to warm his friends Marcello (Noel Bouley), Colline (Ashraf Sewailam) and Schaunard (Andrew Lovato). He soon meets a beautiful girl Mimì (Elizabeth Caballero) and they fall in love in the way that only happens in opera, in mere seconds. A sudden flow of cash takes the friends out of their tiny garret into Paris to enjoy the magic of spring. But all too soon winter approaches and Rodolfo makes a huge sacrifice to keep his Mimì warm during the cold months because she already has a cough. And in opera, a cough in the lead soprano is tragic. Throughout the performance the friends find joy in the small things and revel in each other's company. The main theme of LA BOHÈME isn't poverty or struggle, it's love.
It's the love that is so obvious in everything Austin Opera does. They hire the best national and international stars to bring the stage alive. The set designed by national luminary Michael Yeargan is perfection. Painted to give the audience depth and feel the cramped space of the tiny flat at the same time, is breathtaking. Costumes designed by Walter Mahoney are a vision of mid 19th century Paris, with tiny touches that I particularly enjoyed. The orchestra is stunning, every note is played with passion and verve, and will stay with you long after the final curtain. But it's the cast who bring the characters to full and breathing life. Bouley's Marcello is perhaps my personal favorite. He is boisterous with a heart as big as France, his rich baritone gets you right in the feels. As Mimì Elizabeth Caballero is sweet and fragile, but it's her love for Rodolfo that keeps her strong. But it's Kang Wang as Rodolfo that is love personified. His magnificent tenor is clear and plucks at your heartstrings like a practiced master. The remainder of the core cast is simply amazing and so achingly beautiful to watch. If this is your first time to see an opera, you could not choose a better production. I highly recommend Austin Opera's LA BOHÈME, you will enjoy every moment.
Photos by: Erich Schlegel
Music by Giacomo Puccini
Sung in Italian with projected English titles
Austin Opera @ The Long Center
April 27, May 2&5
Running Time: Approx 2 hours, 45 minutes with two 15 minute intermissions
Tickets: $124 - $15 austinopera.org