Reviewed by Sherri Strichman
Sunday afternoon (Oct. 15), Tri-Cities Opera treated its audience at The Forum to an excellent production of Puccini’s La Boheme. If the object was to fill seats by having only one, well-done performance of a popular opera from the standard repertoire, the company succeeded. The entire cast was solid in its singing and acting, and the performance quality was heightened in every scene by the rapport among the characters.
The four young men in their Parisian garret – Jordan Schreiner as Rodolfo, Scott Purcell as Marcello, Jake Stamatis as Schaunard and Paul Grosvenor as Colline — seemed like the oldest and best of friends. Rodolfo and Mimi (Meroë Khalia Adeeb) were as compatible a pair of young lovers as Marcello and Musetta (Stacey Geyer) with their fiery ups and downs.
Déjà vu set in with the opening curtain as the garret set looked very familiar. (Scenic designer Robert Little’s Boheme set has been used previously by TCO.) The second act set of the Latin Quarter presented a lovely perspective, with different levels and many pathways and doorways. In fact, I can’t say enough about Act II.
Director JJ Hudson had his lead and chorus singers presenting a picture of life in the busy artists’ district with movements small and large; everyone on stage was a distinct character. The adults (prepared by Keenan Boswell and Gordon Schermer) and the children’s chorus (prepared by Maria Aimoniotis) sang the difficult music with precision and excellent voice.
However, as much kinetic energy as there was in the scene, the audience was never in danger of losing sight of the most important action. I have seldom seen a Musetta so enjoying her character. Geyer, a fine singing actress, dominated the stage.
Adeeb’s Mimi was sweet and lovable. The soprano only gets better with every hearing. Schreiner’s self-effacing Rodolfo was entirely charming. Stamatis made some interesting choices, and Grosvenor brought style to Colline. It was a pleasure to see and hear Randolph Messing on the TCO stage again as Benoit and Alcindoro.
Lighting designed by John E. Vestal; wigs, hair and makeup designed by Shushu Vaughn, and costumes by Sandra Vest and coordinated by Susan Johnson added to the overall effect. The costumes had a great deal of variety, and one could track Musetta’s changing fortunes by her clothing in each act.
The orchestra, under the direction of Vlad Iftinca, sounded better than ever, but if there is one criticism I had of the production it would be that the orchestra was too loud. As seductive as those Puccini swells are, please let us hear the singers. From the orchestra seats, the voices were sometimes covered. Others in the balcony found the balance better.
Worth the price? Oh yes. Let’s hope that TCO is able to grow enough audience to be able to do two performances of a fully-staged Forum production.