Make us your home page
Instagram

Review: 'La Boheme' smooths out after ragged start

Richard Troxell, left, as Rodolfo and Marienne Fiset as Mimi. Fiset is a standout in the Opera Tampa production.

Photo by Will Staples

Richard Troxell, left, as Rodolfo and Marienne Fiset as Mimi. Fiset is a standout in the Opera Tampa production.

TAMPA — La Boheme always comes with high expectations, because it is probably the most popular opera in the United States and can be such a touching experience. So it was maddening that the Opera Tampa production of Puccini's portrait of youthful friendship, art and tragic romance in 19th century Paris got off to a ragged start on Thursday night for the opening performance of the final production in the company's inaugural Florida Opera Festival.

As the curtain rose on the bohemians in their chilly garret, they seemed to be singing from a vast remove, even from my close-in seat. The painter Marcello (James Westman) registered as little more than a low, drab rumble, while the diction of poet Rodolfo (Richard Troxell), though more vivid, drifted in and out of clarity, like a cellphone with shaky reception. When their mates, philosopher Colline (Jonathan Silvia) and musician Schaunard (Michael Weyandt), showed up, the scene took on a busy, frenetic quality that missed the inventiveness of the interplay between Puccini's music and the libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa.

Part of the problem was the orchestra, which was often too loud, and the intricate, detailed scoring came across as if rendered by a blunt instrument. After leading two festival productions in the smaller Ferguson Hall, artistic director Daniel Lipton was working for the first time in the 2,500-seat Morsani Hall, and the balances between stage and pit were out of sync throughout much of the first two acts before intermission. With 51 players, the orchestra was a bit small for a Puccini score, and perhaps the conductor thought he needed to compensate. The singers also seemed to be finding their way in the Morsani acoustic.

Despite its large size, the Straz Center's showcase hall can be a surprisingly intimate space for opera, especially if you have a little perspective on the stage. After intermission I moved from row G on the orchestra level to the front row of the first gallery (virtually empty; attendance Thursday was only 1,171), and my enjoyment of the performance was better from that perch, perhaps because it allowed me to see the orchestra as well as the singers. Lipton, the cast and orchestra players had gotten their act together, as balances and projection and the overall sense of ensemble improved as the evening went along.

Throughout La Boheme, the saving grace was Marianne Fiset as Mimi, who gets the love story under way when she knocks on the door to ask Rodolfo to light her candle. Fiset's innocent, doomed seamstress was already ill when she made her entrance, falling to the floor in front of Marcello's easel, but her lyric soprano carried well, and she was a fetching actor. The relationship between Mimi and Rodolfo really came into focus in Act 3. Their farewell in the pre-dawn wintry blue lighting was heartwrenching.

This is a good-looking production, with an imposing set from New Orleans Opera and traditional costumes. Director Frank van Laecke clearly poured a lot of time and energy into the big Cafe Momus scene, with its children's chorus gathered around toy vendor Parpignol (Jeffrey Hartman). For her wonderful waltz aria, flirty Musetta (Ella Tyran) was bathed in red light and positioned at one end of a diagonal pattern stretching across the stage to include the fuming rivals for her affections, Alcindoro (Peter Strummer) and Marcello.

Westman's painter was a disappointment, his baritone lacking the color needed to give expressiveness and vitality to Marcello's role. In the melancholy finale, Silvia brought excellent warmth to Colline's coat aria. Weyandt's Schaunard was too underpowered to make much impression.

John Fleming can be reached at fleming@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8716.

.if you go

The Florida Opera Festival production of Puccini's La Boheme has performances at 2 p.m. today and Sunday in Morsani Hall of the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, Tampa. Run time: 2 hours, 30 minutes, including intermission. $54.50, $84.50. (813) 229-7827 or toll-free 1-800-955-1045; strazcenter.org.

Review: 'La Boheme' smooths out after ragged start 03/08/13 [Last modified: Friday, March 8, 2013 6:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Hernando Events for Sept. 22

    Events

    22 Friday

    Academia Hernando Fall 2017 Lecture Series: "Eleanor Roosevelt at the U.N. — Human Rights," by Susan Marie Frontczak. Series includes eight lectures and one field trip. Field trip only open to subscribers. 10 a.m. to noon. $65 for the entire series, including field trip; $9 per …

  2. Things to Do in Pasco and Hernando counties starting Sept. 22

    Events

    Festivals

    Music and brews: "Brews and Wine on the Bayou," a benefit for Youth and Family Alternatives, will be from 2 to 6 p.m. Sept. 23 at Gill Dawg Marina, 5419 Treadway Drive, Port Richey. The event will feature all-you-can-taste beer and wine, with 20 craft beers and 20 wines. There will be a …

  3. 5 things you didn't know about 'Wall Street' on its 30th anniversary

    Blogs

    It’s hard to think of the 1987 movie Wall Street and not picture Michael Douglas as a megalomaniac tycoon spouting “Greed is good” until shareholders fall in line. 

  4. A meatless burger that tastes like meat? Ciccio Restaurants will serve the Impossible Burger.

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — The most red-hot hamburger in the nation right now contains no meat.

    Ciccio executive chef Luis Flores prepares an Impossible Burger Wednesday at the Epicurean Hotel Food Theatre in Tampa.
  5. Plan your weekend: Sept. 22-24: Buffyfest, Arcade Fire, Howl-O-Scream, Wanderlust 108 and 'Rent'

    Events

    Plan your weekend

    Pop show

    Florida Björkestra's Buffyfest: Pop culture meets pop music when the Florida Björkestra, a 20-piece alternative-classical ensemble that tributes ground-breaking pop artists, on Saturday will play with eight vocalists for "Once More with …

    The 20th anniversary tour of RENT, shown in 2016, comes to the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts Sept. 19-24, 2017. Photo by Carol Rosegg.