One would have to call the revival of Paul Curran’s production of La Bohème part hit and part miss. I recall enjoying the 2007 incarnation a lot more, possibly due to better casting or possibly to the freshness of the concept. In the past four years, I have seen several productions of this opera updated to the early 20th Century, and I can only ask myself WHY? Henri Murger wrote his autobiographical Scènes de la vie de Bohème in 1848 about his impoverished youth, and meant the story to occur in 1830. An updating by the New York City Opera used a WWI setting to illustrate a conception of the story as one of lost innocence; they had something new to say and said it rather well. In the case of the SFO production, updating the story adds nothing in terms of relevance. In this production, Musetta is dressed in Poiret (costume design by Kevin Knight) while Mimi is wearing drab attire from a prior period, thus illustrating Musetta’s success in social climbing and acquiring financial goodies from wealthy admirers.
The hit is, of course, Puccini’s music, conducted by Leonardo Vordoni with lots of “garlic”. The vocal interpretations were adequate but there were no goosebumps. The direction missed several opportunities to translate Puccini’s precious moments into stage business. Rodolfo (sung by David Lomeli) wipes Mimi’s face with a rag where Puccini’s music clearly indicates water splashing on her face. Puccini’s music tells us when the fire in the old stove blazes up momentarily and then dies; the stage direction and lighting (Rick Fisher) ignored this. In Act III the characters sing about the snow and the cold but no snowflakes were to be seen.
Mimi was sung by Ana Maria Martinez, Musetta by Heidi Stober, Marcello by Corey McKern. Even Colline’s fourth act elegy to his overcoat, sung by Christian Van Horn, failed to touch my heart. Markus Beam replaced Keith Phares as Schaunard. It should have been funnier when he tells his hilarious story about giving poisoned parsley (parsenic?) to his employer’s parrot while his starving roommates focused only on the food he has brought. I attribute the lack of excitement in this evening to a lack of good direction. Sorry to say this but our favorite “oldies but goodies “ require the same attention to detail as the glamorous new productions. Try harder Santa Fe!
© meche kroop for The Opera Insider
9 hours ago