‘Bohemian’ Life: Diverse Opera Cast Welcomes Big Return to Big Productions | Arts
Grand opera makes a big return to Crescent City on Friday and Sunday when the New Orleans Opera House stages the iconic “La Bohème.”
The soaring melodies and heartbreaking stories will be brought to life by a diverse cast of performers, which General and Artistic Director Clare Burovac finds essential.
“I think it’s really imperative that opera as an art form welcomes everyone into this operatic experience,” she said. “And that’s one of the best ways to start.”
Giacomo Puccini’s classic work was written about a full century (1890s) after New Orleans began staging operas. But the Parisian story of struggling artists (bohemians), burning passion and loss has become one of the most beloved works of companies from Milan to Melbourne.
Why open up with this work in particular?
“It’s ‘La Boheme’.”
Indeed, it is. “It’s one of the most beloved operas in the repertoire for good reason – they’re real people and how they live their lives,” Burovac said. “That resonates with a lot of people.”
The lead roles are a cast of performers that reflect a diverse community, with Yongzhao Yu as Rodolfo, Vanessa Isiguen as Mimi, Zachary Nelson as Marcello, Kearstin Piper Brown as Musetta, Christian Zarema as Colline, and Spencer Reichman as Schaunard. Fenlon Lamb conducts, with Joseph Colaneri conducting.
The experience itself is multicultural. Set in France, the opera is sung in Italian with English surtitles making it easy for the audience to understand the action as the words scroll across a screen at the top of the proscenium.
The story and music are more familiar than many might think with Broadway shows “Rent” and “Bohème on Broadway” based on the tale, while the tunes have been in countless movies, especially “Moonstruck.” .
Opera, in general, has often been a favorite for other art forms.
“You know so much more about opera than you think,” Burovac said, like several examples from “Bugs Bunny” and Disney cartoons, as well as TV commercials. “It’s so gratifying for me to see someone’s eyes light up when they recognize a melody they hear on the operating scene.”
From “Che gelida manina” (What a little frozen hand) to “Quando me’n vo'” (Musetta waltz), the melodies get carried away with the messages.
This particular opera is also about current issues, with artists grappling with real life.
“‘Bohemian’ for New Orleans is a great story to do right now,” Burovac said, noting that many of the city’s artists live on the poverty line, especially during the pandemic. “It’s a great way for us to use this timeless story to explore relevance for today’s community.”
The production, which easily involves more than 150 artists in the areas of music, set design, costumes, hair, makeup and accompaniment, supports many local participants. The new set was designed by Stephen Kemp.
The opera takes the stage at the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts at 1419 Basin St. at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. A “Nuts and Bolts” lecture with background information will take place one hour before curtain time. Tickets start at $32. Student tickets are available. For information, visit neworleansopera.org.
They got the beat
Rock phenoms The Go-Go’s provide the “Beat” for Loyola Theater Arts and Dance’s production of “Head Over Heels,” the jukebox musical that opens Thursday at the Marquette Theater.
The story, based on Philip Sidney’s 16th-century “Arcadia of the Countess of Pembroke,” is directed by Broadway and stage veteran Hardy Weaver. The production is the show’s local premiere which took place on the Great White Way in late 2018.
The Loyola production tells the story in a unique way, according to the show’s information. “Blending the aesthetics of Elizabethan England, 1980s New Wave and contemporary queer culture, as well as abstracting from the restrictive and typecast characters and cast, this musical aims to celebrate beauty at both the traditional and the unconventional in theater and in life.
In the story, a king tries to thwart four prophecies with mixed results and changes for everyone involved.
The show runs Thursday through Saturday, plus Wednesday, through April 9 at 7:30 p.m. at the Uptown Theater, 6363 St. Charles Ave. Tickets start at $10. For information, visit cmm.loyno.edu.
From Russia with love?
Paris is also the setting for the story of the end of the Russian imperial family and a young woman’s quest to uncover its mysterious past.
That’s the tale brought to life in “Anastasia,” opening Tuesday at the Saenger Theater. Inspired by the films, the story looks at Anya, a young woman who may or may not be Anastasia, the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II who may have survived the same fate as the rest of her family when the Bolsheviks executed them.
With a Soviet officer trying to silence her, Anya sets off from St. Paris, that Anya is his granddaughter.
Songs from the animated movie are part of the show, composed by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens (“Ragtime”) and delivered by Terrence McNally (“Ragtime” and “Kiss of the Spiderwoman”).
As part of the Broadway in New Orleans series, “Anastasia” opens Tuesday through Thursday, April 7 at 7:30 p.m., April 8 at 8 p.m., April 9 at 2 and 8 p.m., and April 10 at 1 and 6:30 p.m. pm Tickets from $35. saengernola.com.
“FOR WHOM THE SOUTH BEAUTIFUL TOLLS”: 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday through April 9; Lower Depths Theatre, Loyola’s Music/Communications Building, 6363 St. Charles Ave. The Tennessee Williams Theater Company presents a trio of parodies on the playwright’s works, including “For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls”, by Christopher Durang, will be joined by his “Desire, Desire, Desire” and “Swamp Gothic” by Roberto Aguirre- Sacasa. Tickets start at $20. twtheatrenola.com.
“JOSEPH AND THE INCREDIBLE DREAMCOAT TECHNICOLOR”: 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays until April 2 and 2 p.m. on April 3; Peak Theater, 767 Robert Blvd., Slidell. One of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s first collaborations was for the story of Joseph in Genesis, as the narrators lead the musical through the ups and downs of Joseph and his family, with a mix of music ranging from rock to country and many more. Tickets start at $30. cuttingedgetheatre.com.