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La Bohème – Review of Canadian Opera Company Production

2262 – Atalla Ayan as Rodolfo and Angel Blue as Mimì in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of La Bohème, 2019. Conductors Paolo Carignani and Antonello Allemandi, original director John Caird, revival director Katherine M. Carter, set and costume designer David Farley, and lighting designer Michael James Clark. Photo: Michael Cooper

The Canadian Opera Company has brought back John Caird’s 2013 production of La Bohème for its spring season, together with Verdi’s Otello. It is a sound decision that was greeted enthusiastically by the audience.
The revival is served superbly by the cast. Brazilian tenor Atalla Ayan has a supple voice that can express emotion and soar to the high notes with ease. The night I saw the opera (April 26), we were advised that he was singing Rodolfo under the effects of a cold. There was no evidence of any adverse consequences and his performance was topnotch. After the tomfoolery of the poor artists in the attic and the arrival of Mimi, Ayan delivers a superb “Che gelida manina” combining youthful bravado with a wonderful melody and we were hooked.
American soprano Angel Blue seemed initially not to have a big enough voice for the Four Seasons Centre but that impression was quickly dispelled. She starts haltingly with “Si, Mi chiamano Mimi” and pours forth her life leading to the inevitable – love. The one, two, three punch comes with the love duet between Rodolfo and Mimi, “O soave fanciulla,” and we got our money’s worth. The rest is a bonus.
Canadian soprano Andriana Chuchman manages to sound sultry as Musetta, the teaser and abuser of men who has a heart of gold. Her signature aria is her “Quando m’envo” better known as Musetta’s waltz and Chuchman brings the vocal kick and manipulative bravura worthy of the show-stopper aria.
Rodolfo’s three friends deserve special mention. American baritone Lucas Meachem as the painter Marcello was vocally the most distinguished of the trio. He showed exuberance in his acting and singing as a sympathetic friend and the hapless former lover of Musetta. American bass-baritone Brandon Cedel was good as the philosopher Colline and Canadian baritone Phillip Addis as the musician Schaunard sounded as if he were not having his best day.
David Farley’s set featured a hefty number of large canvasses in the first act. The set was turned around quickly for the scene change from the attic to a street in the Latin Quarter for the second act. The background was not well-lit nor a particularly prepossessing street scene but otherwise it was quite good. The third act scene by a tavern near the city gates at dawn looked somber. It is supposed to be snowing but, we had to settle for a few snowflakes. Clearly we have more important things to do like listening to the heart-wrenching Marcello-Mimi duet and her farewell to Rodolfo. Marvelously done.
John Caird took a conservative, traditional approach to the opera and it works superbly in the revival directed by Katherine M Carter.
Paolo Carigniani conducted the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra in a performance that got a well-deserved standing ovation.
La Bohème opened on April 17 and will be performed ten times on various dates until May 22, 2019 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 45 Queen Street W

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