AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: A love interest sparks LA Opera’s “La Boheme”

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

This article was first
published today in the above papers.

 

Los Angeles Opera’s
production of Puccini’s La Boheme

May 12, 23, 26 and 31 at 7:30 p.m. May 20 and June 2 at 2 p.m.

Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles

Tickets: $20-$270

Information: 213/972-8001; www.laopera.com

(Below: The
husband-and-wife team of Stephen Costello and Ailyn Prez will perform the lead
roles in Los Angeles Opera’s revival of its production of Puccini’s La Boheme,
which opens May 12 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.)

 

59972-Costello-Perez.jpg

If you’re one of those who rolled their eyes and muttered
“Oh, no, not another La Boheme,” when
Los Angeles Opera announced that the Puccini potboiler would be the final opera
in the 2011-2012 season, you might want to re-assess your reaction.

 

True, Puccini’s timeless tragic love story of young Parisian
artists is one of the most performed works in the repertoire, a fact that
presents plusses and minuses. It’s a perfect introduction for those who have
never seen an opera and LAO’s revival of this Herbert Ross production has
several intriguing factors to recommend it even for opera regulars.

 

Chief among the virtues are the cast members, all of whom
are young enough to actually look the part (not as easy as it sounds, says
director Greg Fortner). Moreover, given that opera casts are assembled years
ahead of time, LAO has managed to strike gold in that two of the leading
characters have won major competitions in the past few months.

 

Ailyn Prez, who portrays Mimi, was named winner of the 2012
Richard Tucker Award and Janai Brugger, Musetta in the first three LAO
performances, was one of the five winners of the recent Metropolitan Opera
National Council Auditions held in New York City last month. In a sign of LAO
vitality, Brugger, Valentina Fleer (who will sing Musetta in the final three
performances) and Museop Kim (Schunard) are all members in this year’s LAO
Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program.

 

Another intriguing aspect to the casting is that Prez will
be partnered by her husband, Stephen Costello, as Mimi’s lover, Rodolfo.  Costello (who won the Tucker Award in
2009) and Prez met in 2003 at Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts, starred
together in a 2005 AVA production of “La Boheme,” fell in love and eventually
were married in 2008.  Prez is the
first Hispanic to win the Tucker Award.

 

Fortner, who is a member of the Metropolitan Opera’s
directing team and has credits at many other companies, will be directing Boheme for the first time. “I realize
that many people will have seen Boheme before
and some will come with preconceptions about how the piece should look and
play,” says Fortner. “One of the first things we did as a cast was sit down and
talk through our thoughts and preconceptions and find a way to make this
production uniquely ours.”

 

They will be aided by the veteran hand of conductor Patrick
Summers, artistic and music director of Houston Grand Opera and principal guest
conductor of San Francisco Opera. The production — originally created by film
director Herbert Ross — is familiar to LAO “veteran” patrons; this will be the
sixth time that this “Boheme” has been presented in the company’s 26-year
history, a total of 43 performances. The story — and the opera — never grow
old.

 

For another look at the cast, read David Mermelstein’s story
in the Los Angeles Times HERE.

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.