Theater Reviews



L.A. Opera at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
Through Dec. 16

One of the world's best-loved and oft-played operas, "La Boheme" also is one of the most romantic, and the most endearing with its tale of young love and loss among poverty-ridden struggling artists in the Latin Quarter of Paris in the mid-19th century.

While not much has changed among struggling artists in any country in any century, the prerequisite that a true artist must starve to achieve success seems to have fallen out of popular mythology, or we've aged out of it, or perhaps we've just forgotten. Whatever has produced a soprano with the superb voice and ability of artist Maija Kovalevska, who plays Mimi; Massimo Giordano, opening night's Rodolfo; Luca Salsi as a comforting Marcello; and Laquita Mitchell, stunning as the peachy-tough Musetta, becomes immaterial as their glorious voices are blended with Puccini's creamily beautiful music. (The seven major roles are double-cast, with the second cast playing Dec. 8, Dec. 14 and Dec. 16.)

Of major interest: This is a young cast -- age is no detriment to their ability and obvious experience -- who are great to watch as well as listen to, and whose acting ability is as peerless as their voices.

Herb Ross' 1993 production is directed here by Stanley M. Garner, who's kept all the pieces in place but has given them a fresh eye. Our view of the backstreets of Paris is exactly what it is in our imagination, just as we expected it to be. If the pizzazz of Baz Luhrmann is missing, its affinity with the subject matter isn't. That's a real garret, we're convinced; those bohemian artists are really struggling; our hearts are truly with them, through their trials and the eventual sorrow that colors the whole glorious canvas. And we're totally with them on Christmas Eve amid the bustling bright and noisy crowd of merrymakers in the town square.

The story of an ill-fated love between two beautiful young people will never be out of style. Certainly not when it's presented with such obvious affection, and with so much talent.

Presented by Los Angeles Opera
Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Libretto: Giuseppe Giacosa & Luigi Illica
Based on the novel "Scenes de la Vie Boheme" by: Henry Murger
Conductors: Hartmut Haenchen, Placido Domingo
Director: Stanley M. Garner
Production: Herb Ross
Set designer: Gerald Howland
Costume designer: Peter J. Hall
Lighting designer: Brian Gale
Choreographer: Peggy Hickey
L.A. Opera concertmaster: Stuart Canin
L.A. Opera associate conductor/chorus master: Grant Gershon
L.A. Children's Chorus artistic director: Anne Tomlinson
Marcello: Luca Salsi, Hung Yun
Rodolpho: Massimo Giordano, Arturo Chacon-Cruz
Colline: Oren Gradus, Christian Van Horn
Schaunard: Brian Leehuber, Brian Mulligan
Benoit/Alcindoro: Philip Cokorinos
Mimi: Maija Kovalevska, Virginia Tola