Review: LA BOHÈME at Kennedy Center

The opera is full of marvelous moments and magnificent operatic singing from all involved and it will satisfy the most ardent opera lovers.

Celebrate Memorial Day with Discounts on Broadway Favorites in our Theatre Shop!

The glorious music of Puccini remains the principal reason to see the Washington National Opera's (WNO)current production of the beloved classic opera La bohème. This oft-referenced opera that has influenced everything from the famous film Moonstruck to the hit Broadway musical Rent, must be a fairly faithful revival of the original opera that the WNO presented at the Kennedy Center in 2014 -the original director Peter Kazaras is one again at the helm. Additionally, the original costumes by Jennifer Moeller (which are appropriate to the updated period), the original choreography by Ben Wright and the original set design by Lee Savage have all been retained. From referencing the program, however, it seems that lighting design by A. J. Guban has been brought in for this production.

Updating this production to the post -World War I period works exceedingly well for, indeed, the period of Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Picasso, and Modigliani is just as appealing to the spirit of bohemia as the world of George Sand and Victor Hugo was in the 1800's.

The opera is full of marvelous moments and magnificent operatic singing from all involved and it will satisfy the most ardent opera lovers. Especially engaging is the exuberant scene at Café Momus in the Latin Quarter. Soprano Jacqueline Echols (Musetta) delivers a lively and beautifully realized bravura rendition of the earthy and vocally demanding "Musetta's waltz" (Quando me'n vo' ---"When I Go Along") as she captivates and cavorts around the large ensemble in order to reclaim Marcello's (the commanding baritone Gihoon Kim) attention. The WNO Chorus, Corps Dancers, Children's Chorus and the Supernumeraries were invaluable to this large ensemble piece and commendations and bravos must be given. This scene looked as if a French painting had come to life and it was full of such a celebration of humanity including a group of marching soldiers, urchins, children, vendors, and the toymaker Parpignol (Nathan Letourneau).

A very pleasurable highlight of the opera is the very intriguingly developed quartet wherein Musetta and Marcello quarrel and Mimi and Rodolfo reconcile (quartet: Mimi, Rodolfo, Musetta, Marcello: Addio dolce svegliare alla mattina!---"Goodbye, sweet awakening in the morning!"). The scenic and theatrical effect of snow falling did much to enhance the mood and was visually eye-catching.

The libretto of the opera by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica is serviceable but certainly not of any distinctive quality.

The first act portraying the struggling bohemians Rodolfo (tenor Kang Wang) and Marcello (baritone Gihoon Kim) musing on their poverty and enticing the landlord, Benoit (a wonderfully bemused and oblivious Peter Rose) with drink in order to pay the rent is amusing but the set is so far upstage that it is hard to engage, especially since there was some lack of pronounced movement to engage the audience and no focused lighting on the individual singers when they sang.

Though the same set design was being used as in the 2014 production (I assume, since there was no new designer cited in the program), it would have been helpful to have the performers move closer downstage to inject more immersion in this scene for the audience. The "encased-like" garret set was too constricted for the expansive stage of the Opera House and would seem more appropriate in the Eisenhower Theater space.

As the scene progresses, we are introduced to the young woman, Mimi (the expressive soprano Gabriella Reyes) whose candle has blown out and who needs a match to light it. Ms. Reyes' beautiful voice was especially expressive as it soared on the more sustained operatic notes. Ms. Reyes' singing of her life and her name was enchanting (Si, mi chiamano Mimi---"Yes, they call me Mimi"). The romance of love in all its' bountiful glory was conveyed as Ms. Reyes and Mr. Wang realize they have fallen in love (duet, Rodolfo, and Mimi: O soave fanciulla -"Oh lovely girl"). Mr. Wang's expressive and sensitive tenor combined beautifully with Ms. Reyes' beautiful soprano voice.

The final scene of the opera when Mimi tells Rodolfo that her love for him is her whole life is very moving (-aria/duet: Sono andati? ---"Have they gone?") and it was ravishingly sung ---conveying the romantic love that has consumed the two lovers, as analogous to the consuming disease of Mimi's tuberculosis.

Conductor Alevtina Ioffe conducts the WNO Orchestra with confident attention to Puccini's romantic music.

If romantic passion is your operatic passion, do not miss the Washington National Opera's production of La bohème.

Running Time: One Hour and forty minutes plus one twenty-five-minute intermission.

La bohème runs through May 27, 2023 at the Kennedy Center Opera House located at 2700 F Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20566.

Photo Credit: L-R Gabriella Reyes and Kang Wang in Washington National Opera's production of La bohème. Photo by Scott Suchman.


Studio Theatre Announces Cast of FUN HOME

Studio Theatre has announced the cast of their production of Fun Home, with performances starting June 28. The musical, with music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by Lisa Kron, is based on the autobiographical graphic novel of the same name by cartoonist and writer Alison Bechdel.

Review: THE CRUCIBLE at Eisenhower Theater

What did our critic think of THE CRUCIBLE at Eisenhower Theater? Choreographer Helen Pickett does in her ballet The Crucible just exactly what Arthur Miller attempted in his 1953 play, her source. Both try to make a new language to express the Salem witch trials of 1692 because those events were too extraordinary for regular English or garden-variety ballet.

Review: SWEENEY TODD at Signature Theatre

What did our critic think of SWEENEY TODD at Signature Theatre? Set in the dark streets of London in 1785, we follow barber Sweeney Todd (Nathaniel Stampley) as he returns from wrongful imprisonment by the horrifying Judge Turpin (John Leslie Wolf).

Interview: Theatre Life with Peter Salem

Today’s subject Peter Salem is currently living his theatre life as the composer of Scottish Ballet’s production of The Crucible. The show runs now through May 28th at Kennedy Center in the Eisenhower Theater.

From This Author - David Friscic

David has always had a passionate interest in the arts from acting in professional dinner theatre and community theatre to reviewing film and local theatre in college.  He is thrilled to be worki... (read more about this author)


#repshow# in[i]# Sondheim Tribute Revue
Congregation Har Shalom (6/04-6/04)Tracker
#repshow# in[i]# KUMANANA! An Afro-Peruvian Musical Revue
GALA Hispanic Theatre (6/07-6/25)
#repshow# in[i]# Star Wars: Return of the Jedi in Concert | National Symphony Orchestra
Wolf Trap (7/08-7/08)
#repshow# in[i]# The Nacirema Society ...
The Little Theatre of Alexandria (6/03-6/24)
#repshow# in[i]# The Planets in HD | NSO
Wolf Trap (7/07-7/07)
#repshow# in[i]# The Magic Duel Comedy Show
The Mayflower Hotel (4/02-1/01)
#repshow# in[i]# American Ballet Theatre | Giselle
Wolf Trap (7/27-7/28)
#repshow# in[i]# Broadway in the Park featuring Lea Salonga
Wolf Trap (6/16-6/16)
#repshow# in[i]# Findind Neil Patrick Harris
Nu Sass Productions (4/14-6/09)
#repshow# in[i]# DOLLY
Lincoln Theatre (6/03-6/04)

Recommended For You