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Santa Fe's Decent Boheme Fails to Scale the Highest Peaks


by Olin Chism 7 Aug 2011

After scoring magnificently with Wozzeck and The Last Savage and stumbling with Griselda, the Santa Fe Opera turned to the surest of the sure-fire operas on Saturday night — La Boheme”— and came out somewhere in the middle.

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David Lomelí (Rodolfo) & Ana María Martínez (Mimi) in Santa Fe Opera’s La Boheme

After scoring magnificently with Berg’s Wozzeck and Menotti’s The Last Savage and stumbling with Vivaldi’s Griselda, the Santa Fe Opera turned to the surest of the sure-fire operas on Saturday night: Puccini’s La Boheme.

And it came out somewhere in the middle. It was a performance that generally engaged the emotions — at least a small pack of tissues to daub at the tears was advisable — without rising to the peaks that a great Boheme can scale.

Vocally, it was in pretty good shape. The Mimi of Ana Maria Martinez and the Musetta of Heidi Stober were musically appealing and theatrically effective. David Lomeli was Rodolfo; his voice has a nice Italianate ring but his acting tends to be a little stiff. As Rodolfo’s three buddies, Corey McKern (Marcello), Christian Van Horn (Colline) and Markus Beam (Schaunard) were personable and vocally pleasant.

The playing of the Santa Fe Opera orchestra was solid and the leadership of conductor Leonardo Vordoni was effective, though stage-pit coordination was not always flawless.

The set design of Kevin Knight is unusual; The Act 1 attic folds up to become a thick wall dividing the stage for Acts 2 and 3 and then unfolds for the finale. Otherwise, the design is conventional though Acts 2 and 3 present some minor staging difficulties.

Director Paul Curran’s staging generally honors Puccini and his librettists, though there were a couple of flaws that are very common in Boheme productions: The horseplay of the four buddies is overdone, as are Musetta’s antics in the Café Momus scene. But I suppose that if a director pressed the soft pedal in such scenes, Boheme regulars would feel cheated.

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