Article published Nov 5, 2007
FSU opera's 'La Boheme' a potent production
By Steve Hicken
SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT
Big tunes, big voices, big emotions.
These are the hallmarks of romantic opera, and they are all in evidence in the Florida State Opera production of Giacomo Puccini's "La Boheme," which concludes its run next Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 at Ruby Diamond Auditorium on the Florida State University campus.
Director Matthew Lata set the story in World War I era Paris, and the vibrant street life surrounded by the damaged buildings mirrored the events of the familiar tale. Peter Dean Beck's scenic and lighting design and Barney FitzGerald's costumes perfectly complemented Lata's conception of the opera, with many shades of gray dominating the stage, making the splashes of color that much more eye-catching.
As always, Lata's direction of crowd scenes is exciting - there's always something to look at on the stage, without there being so much as to be distracting. The street scenes were as live and teeming with activity as the garret scenes were bleak.Any production of "La Boheme" rides on the voices, and this one had an abundance of good ones. Jeffrey Chapman (Marcello), Young Ju Lee (Colline) and Sean Stork (Schaunard) gave winning performances in their supporting roles. Kristen Johnson was an attractive, flirtatious and big-voiced Musetta.
The lead roles of poet Rodolfo and his doomed love, Mimi, were embodied by Eric Hanson and Bethany Kiral. It is difficult for young singers (and not easy for fully developed singers) to project their voices into a large hall over a sumptuous romantic orchestra, but both Hanson and Kiral did so consistently, without sacrificing vocal quality.
The other supporting players and the chorus provided solid aural and visual background. The FSU Opera Orchestra, under the direction of Director of Opera Activities Douglas Fisher, was at its best in Puccini's rich score. Fisher again displayed his keen sense of theatrical pacing, allowing the full-throated romanticism of the piece to come through, without overshadowing the singers or the drama itself.
With this production of "La Boheme," the Florida State Opera continues to show that it deserves its place near the top of American college opera programs.