On September 16, artistic director and conductor Sabatino Vacca launched Southern Ontario Lyric Opera’s (SOLO) 2017-2018 season with Puccini’s La Bohème. The popular crowd-pleaser is so well known that it can be a mundane experience—however, this is not the case with SOLO’s production. The strong cast, creative staging and historically accurate costumes fully embody the spirit of Puccini’s turn-of-the-twentieth-century love story.
Performing the iconic roles of La Bohème
The young cast was completely believable—each lead not only looked their part, but sang their role with utter sincerity. Natalya Gennadi’s Mimi was quietly sensitive despite her soaring vocals, and her skillful acting made the seamstress’s demise all the more pitiful. Michael Marino (Rodolfo) delivered a “Che gelida manina” so powerful that he forwent Act I’s final offstage note; Marino’s voice continued to strengthen throughout the production, and he skillfully portrayed the emotional roller coaster that Rodolfo endures. Sara Papini was a charming Musetta, and her “Quando me’n vo’” was delivered as the show stopping piece that Puccini meant it to be. Diego Catalá portrayed a handsome and conflicted Marcello whose powerful vocals in the finale of Act II were particularly stirring. Peter Bass (Schaunard) sang with force in addition to his adept acting, and showed innate sensitivity in the final death scene. Dylan Wright (Colline) delivered a moving and sonorous “Vecchia zimarra, senti,” while Austin Larusson (Benoit/Alcindoro) was an accomplished ensemble member within the small cast.
Outside artists bring new life to the classic opera
Vacca’s sensitive conducting ebbed and flowed with the beautiful score, which allowed the singers to make the most of Puccini’s phrasings. The orchestra showed great improvement from their first SOLO production; however, at times the woodwinds were flat and the trumpets were jarring. The chorus was enthusiastic, strong, and in sync, and the addition of members of the Burlington Teen Tour band—Canada’s oldest and largest marching band—during the parade in Act II was visually stunning. The children’s chorus from the Burlington Student Theatre displayed impressive vocals and were a delight to watch.
Director Lesley Andrew’s use of the entire theatre space for the character’s entrances and exits made for exciting transitions throughout the production, and Jane Coryell’s set design and Chris Humphrey’s lighting were simple and elegant. As SOLO’s third fully staged opera, La Bohème proved that for this company the third time was, indeed, a charm.
Angela Bell is Opera Canada’s Digital Media Specialist. She has held digital and PR roles with various businesses including the Walt Disney Company, Sullivan Entertainment and Toronto International Film Festival.