Make us your home page

A faithful, delightful rendition of 'La Bohème' at St. Petersburg Opera

St. Petersburg Opera Company’s production of La Boh?me features, from front left, Jeremy Milner (Colline), Michelle Seipel (Musetta), Jesse Stock, (Marcello), Kyle Tomlin (Rodolfo), Danielle Talamantes (Mimi), and Daniel Scofield (Schaunard).

St. Petersburg Opera Co.

St. Petersburg Opera Company’s production of La Boh?me features, from front left, Jeremy Milner (Colline), Michelle Seipel (Musetta), Jesse Stock, (Marcello), Kyle Tomlin (Rodolfo), Danielle Talamantes (Mimi), and Daniel Scofield (Schaunard).

Now and then, someone launches a contemporary version of La Bohème, Giacomo Puccini's paean to love and loss, with mixed results. A production in Washington, D.C., set the downtrodden artists in the 1980s club scene. Another, in Oslo, started the show with the heroine, Mimi, who we already know will die at the end, in a cancer ward.

If these interpretations didn't go over so well, it's hard to fault the companies for trying. Bohème has been a hit since its inception, was feted a century after its opening with a 1996 musical derivative, Rent, done and redone. It might be opera's most faithful warhorse, always ready to battle recession and changing demographics, a hedged bet when other risks have been taken.

So far, the decade-old St. Petersburg Opera Company has concentrated on establishing itself and the art form in traditional ways. The current production of La Bohème was no exception, a lovely retelling of a classic, well-cast and more than ably sung. While Puccini's score deservedly carries the mantle, a libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa — and, before that, an 1846 episodic novel by Frenchman Henri Murger on which it was based (Scenes of Bohemian Life) — seems worthy of mention every hundred years or so. Bohème reminds everyone of everyone's youth, artistically wasted or otherwise.

They paint and write poetry and make wreaths out of artificial flowers. They drink too much and are late on the rent. They share secrets and lean on others for support.

The leads carry the load. Kyle Tomlin largely masters a delicate role as Rodolfo, a poet smitten with his neighbor. His tenor voice is more rapier-like than hugely capacious or rafter-blasting. But where some singers might rush through the more conversational portions of the libretto, he does not. His duet at the close of his first scene with Mimi, the neighbor, nails the first act and sells the rest of the show.

Danielle Talamantes delivers a pro's performance as Mimi, all the more remarkable for its understated quality. She introduces herself shyly and a chest cough foreshadows the rest, then builds the vocal castle as her illness progresses. This is the St. Petersburg Opera debut for Talamantes, who is between seasons at the Metropolitan Opera. Hopefully she will be back.

As with other productions, care has been taken to cast supporting roles. Jesse Stock takes an especially sympathetic and powerful turn as the painter Marcello. His romantic counterpart, the saucy Musetta (Michelle Seipel) delivers a strong (and at times, nearly show-stealing) performance. Bass-baritone Jeremy Milner earned appreciative applause for his doleful aria as the philosopher Colline, about to pawn his coat for Mimi's medicine.

Set designer Warren Sodt and conductor Mark Sforzini found another way to allow the orchestra to be heard at the Palladium (which has no pit), this time by tucking musicians behind open doors inside the set. Scene changes sometimes created barriers to that sound, but the orchestra still made its way unadulterated about half the time.

I do have one note on the opera's conclusion, as Tomlin apparently decided to underplay Rodolfo's grief. His deep-in-thought physical posture is a little confusing, since it's unclear if he even realizes his girlfriend is dead. The opera just sort of ends without a clear sense of resolution.

Nonetheless, this is a loyal and loving reproduction of La Bohème, which has endured for a reason.

Contact Andrew Meacham at or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

. if you go

Other performances

The opera starts at 2 p.m. today and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Palladium Theater, 253 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. $22-$67. (727) 823-2040.

A faithful, delightful rendition of 'La Bohème' at St. Petersburg Opera 06/04/16 [Last modified: Saturday, June 4, 2016 8:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 17: Think 11 miles of nothing but straight trail and open, flat fields sounds easy? Think again.


    Day 17: Villarmentero de Campos to Lédigos: 33.5 km, 10.25 hours. Total for Days 1-17 = 394 km (245 miles)

  2. Tom Sawyer with a revolver? Twain house has live 'Clue' game


    HARTFORD, Conn. — Was it Tom Sawyer in Samuel Clemens' billiard room with a revolver?

    In this July 14 photo, actor Dan Russell, left, portraying the character Arkansas from Mark Twain's book Roughing it, responds to a question from 10-year-old Emma Connell, center, of Arizona during a "Clue" tour at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Conn. The tour allows visitors to interact with Twain characters while playing a live-action version of the board game. [AP Photo/Pat Eaton-Robb]
  3. Until this song, Alan Parsons Project stood on much higher ground


    Listening to yesterday's Keats song made me pine for more Alan Parsons Project music and today we dig deeper into their catalogue with Standing On Higher Ground.

  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for July 23


    Marie Antoinette: Freefall 411: A contemporary look at the historic pariah looks at Marie Antoinette through the lens of society's obsession with celebrity. Through August 13. A brief talk prior to the performance provides insight to the production. 1 p.m., show starts at 2 p.m., Freefall Theatre, 6099 Central …

    Lucas Wells as King Louis XVI, left, and Megan Rippey as Marie Antoinette in Freefall Theatre's "Marie Antoinette."
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for July 22


    Snooty the Manatee's 69th Birthday Bash: Snooty, documented by Guinness World Records as the oldest known manatee in captivity, turns 69 and celebrates with children's games, art activities, cookies, drinks , interaction with Snooty the mascot and reduced price museum admission. 10 a.m., South Florida Museum, 201 …

    Snooty the manatee poses for a photo Thursday morning while three young manatees are unloaded from Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa Thursday morning at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton.
PAUL VIDELA/ 12/20/07