Utah Opera Performs LA BOHEME This Week

Performances run October 7-15.

By: Oct. 03, 2023
Utah Opera Performs LA BOHEME This Week

In the heart of Utah's cultural scene, Utah Opera is set to deliver a remarkable production of Giacomo Puccini's timeless opera, La Bohème. This upcoming rendition promises to be more than just a musical experience; it's a celebration of the rich tapestry of human relationships. Puccini’s La bohème brings both romantic and platonic relationships to life for five performances at the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre this October, weaving together the lives of ordinary individuals and infusing the storytelling with profound humanity.  

“La bohème is one of the best examples of truth in opera,” says director Garnett Bruce. “Audiences wanted honest reactions, during an honest time, with everyday people.” 

An audience favorite, this well-beloved opera finds success in its portrayal of relationships, epitomized by the passionate first love between Mimì and Rodolfo. The darling Mimì, portrayed by American soprano Laura Wilde who has been praised by Opera News for having “a ravishingly beautiful sound, [and] a fine sense of style and character,” enters Rodolfo's life quite literally through a chance meeting in his Parisian garret. The charming Rodolfo, portrayed by American tenor and former Utah Opera Resident Artist Christopher Oglesby, known for his “vibrancy and charisma” according to the San Francisco Chronicle, illuminates the spark of their romance by bringing a match to light Mimì’s candle—literally striking the candle’s flame while also igniting their newfound romance. This initial encounter sets the stage for their relationship to develop organically. As they learn about each other, the audience is drawn into their world, witnessing the magic of a love that blooms unexpectedly. 

“Mimì [and the rest of the bohemians] want to live life to the fullest,” said soprano Laura Wilde. “She is searching for something real, and the audience is able to see that search and the love she finds represented through her arias.”

The progression of the relationship is marked by moments of both tenderness and conflict. The couple’s duets, such as "Che gelida manina" and "Sì, mi chiamano Mimì," allow the audience to witness their deepening affection and the genuine connection they share. These musical moments are beautifully rendered by the performers, conveying the emotions and uncertainties that come with falling in love. As the opera unfolds, the audience becomes emotionally invested in Mimì and Rodolfo's relationship—observing the new couple as they navigate their growing attraction, making every stolen glance, every shared secret, and every whispered confession palpable. However, the love story is not without challenges. Their journey takes them through moments of intense passion, but it also exposes the fragility of human connection. 

La bohème not only showcases the passionate first love between Mimì and Rodolfo but also contrasts it with the tempestuous relationship between Musetta and Marcello. Characterized by passion, turbulence, and a flair for the dramatic, Musetta and Marcello's relationship is marked by breakups, makeups, and moments of jealousy. The vivacious Musetta is portrayed by Italian-American soprano Marina Costa-Jackson. The New York Times stated that Costa-Jackson is "dramatically and musically alluring…notable for her burnished timbre and subtle phrasing.” Her fiery counterpart, Marcello, is portrayed by Canadian baritone James Westman, who “acts as impressively as he sings,” according to the England Financial Times. Together, these two bring a different kind of romantic intensity to the stage as their characters weave back and forth between their emotions.

Beyond romantic entanglements, La bohème underscores the significance of platonic relationships, particularly the camaraderie among the four bohemian friends—Rodolfo, Marcello, Schaunard (portrayed by South African baritone Tshilidzi Ndou, currently a Resident Artist at Utah Opera), and Colline (portrayed by Chinese bass William Guanbo Su). Together, these four friends embody the spirit of bohemia, embracing a carefree and unconventional way of life—with the opera showcasing their friendship through shared laughter, heated debates, or collaborative efforts to navigate the challenges of poverty and creative struggles. 

Perhaps the most important relationship in the production is the relationship between the music and the storyline, guided by the skilled hands of the conductor. Leading this upcoming performance is returning conductor and orchestra-favorite Robert Tweten, who also conducted the Utah Opera’s 2017 production of La bohème. In any opera production, the conductor plays a pivotal role. In this case, Tweten helms the musical journey, setting the pace of the drama, guiding the singers, and shaping the orchestra’s performance. In fact, Tweten’s ability to synchronize the orchestra with the singers is crucial for the success of the performance. In moments of duets or ensemble pieces, his skill in maintaining balance ensures that the voices harmonize seamlessly with the orchestra, creating a cohesive and immersive sonic experience for the audience. And in doing so, he builds a relationship between the music, the artists, the orchestra, and the audience.

It’s this depth of musical understanding—and intimacy with Puccini's score—that serves as a powerful bridge between the audience and the characters. It allows the viewers to connect with the emotions and struggles of Mimì, Rodolfo, Musetta, Marcello, and their friends on a profound level, transcending language and culture.

This same music also plays a crucial role in establishing the atmosphere and setting of the opera. From the bustling streets of Paris to the intimate confines of the garret, the orchestra—under Tweten’s guidance—transports the audience. The music paints a vivid backdrop for the characters' interactions, enhancing the storytelling and creating a sensory experience that immerses the audience in the world of La bohème.

The Utah Opera’s upcoming production of La bohème unfolds a world where love and friendship serve as beacons of hope and understanding amidst life's trials. It reminds audience members that the most significant stories are those of ordinary people, living their lives with extraordinary passion and resilience. As the curtains rise on La bohème, audiences can prepare to experience the depth of humanity and beauty in these relationships found within every day, ordinary individuals—much like themselves. In the music and characters, they will find reflections of their own joys and sorrows, underscoring the profound beauty found in the simplest of moments.  

Season Sponsor for Utah Symphony | Utah Opera is the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation. Utah Opera expresses its gratitude to Production Sponsors George S. and Dolores Dore' Eccles Foundation, Opera Conductor Sponsor Utah Division of Arts & Museums, Opera Artistic Director Sponsor Emma Eccles Jones Foundation, VIP Intermission Reception Sponsor J. Wongs Thai & Chinese Bistro, VIP Intermission Beverage Sponsor Swire Coca Cola, and VIP Intermission Opera Wine Sponsor David and SandyLee Griswold.

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