Sunday, May 12, 2013

Your tiny hand is frozen

Jennifer Moore as Mimi, Anthony Webb as Rodolfo
Set design by Meganne George
Courtesy by A.G. Liebowitz/WrightGroupNY, Bronx Opera
I had the pleasure of seeing Bronx Opera's new production of La Boheme at Lehman College in the Bronx on Friday, May 10. You will recall my last report on a Bronx Opera production was The Poisoned Kiss in January of 2012. There was a lot to like, even love, about those production of La Boheme. My focus is always on the singers themselves, and I'm happy to report that the cast on opening night was very strong indeed.

The two standouts in this cast were the Marcello of Jeremy Moore and the Mimi of Jennifer Moore. (I have no idea if they're related.) Jeremy Moore was a shining member of Bronx Opera's Poisoned Kiss cast, and I think I failed to convey at that time how much his performance impressed me. His Marcello was sung beautifully, and acted in a genuine, believable way. His love for Musetta felt real and we understood his anger and bitterness. I didn't know Jennifer Moore's singing before, but I hope to see and hear her much more. Her singing is skillful and musical, a free, rich sound throughout. Hearing her sing Mimi's soaring vocal lines was a pleasure, and watching her suffer Mimi's fate was delightfully painful.

Jeremy Moore sang Marcello
Anthony Webb, who impressed me in a concert of Caramoor Bel Canto Young Artists a few seasons ago, was Rodolfo. His bio lists primarily bel canto roles, and this we can hear quite easily in Mr. Webb's singing. One predicts his voice will grow into fuller roles such as Rodolfo, and we heard ample evidence of great things to come in his singing of the role opening night, particularly in Acts III and IV. Mr. Webb is very comfortable on stage, and among the cast's strongest actors.

Other cast members were equally impressive. Musetta was pleasantly sung by Elisa Cordova. Bass-baritone Richard Bozic, another Poisoned Kiss cast member, sang Colline with an earnest simplicity that touched the heart.

The director was Victoria Crutchfield. There were many directorial touches that were very clever, although the show seemed a bit uneven in its level of security and well-rehearsedness. (A common phenomenon among small opera companies--opening night can be like a finall dress rehearsal.) The second act, although it had many of those clever touches, seemed especially ragged. However, whether through the talents of Ms. Crutchfield or those of the individual cast members--I suspect it's both--there was a great chemistry among them all, and this reporter cried in all the right places and even some unexpected places. I've never cried before when Musetta is reunited with Marcello, but something about this pair made me a weepy mess. I hesitate to admit this, but I cried just as much when Mimi stepped out for her curtain call--not dead after all!--as when Rodolfo howled (beautifully, mind you) the anguished "Mimi! Mimi!" and broke down sobbing over Mimi's lifeless body.

Bronx Opera Music Director Michael Spierman conducts all performances except the performance I saw on opening night, which was left in the hands of Assistant Conductor Eric Kramer. Note to Mr. Spierman: Don't do that again. Mr. Kramer's conducting was the biggest flaw in an otherwise pretty darn good show. There were numerous issues in togetherness with the singers, in giving cues, and in the moments I watched him, in actually making sense in his conducting.

This La Boheme was sung in English, in a new version by Ms. Crutchfield and Lily Kass. While certainly better than the old-school Ruth and Thomas Martin translation we know from the G. Schirmer score, there were still awkward phrases. In Act I, Colline should not say "Whoopsy-daisy!" when he has apparently fallen down the stairs offstage. On the other hand, Mimi's line "Farewell then--we part as friends." in her Act III aria Donde lietà was a beautiful touch.

Bronx Opera will present two more performances of La Boheme, on May 17 and 18 at John Cranford Adams Playhouse, Hofstra University. See the Bronx Opera web site (link above) for more information. I will see the other cast next weekend and post an update about it. I highly recommend seeing this production. Bring tissues.

UPDATE:  I had intended to catch the other cast on May 17, but the gods of mucus and high fever had other ideas.  I've heard members of that cast before, and regret that I couldn't hear them again in this fine production.

No comments: