Part of the experience of the upcoming production of La Bohme will be the living, if only for an evening, of the lifestyle of an 1890s Bohemian. Although many Eastman students probably feel Bohemian from time to time, we have to admit that with plenty of food, central heating and numerous outlets for our creative energy, we’re pretty far from that mark.

In Puccini’s La Bohme, which is being staged April 4-7 in the Eastman Theatre, four Bohemians are far from having the luxury of central heating. These men, who share a chilled room in Paris ? Rodolfo, Marcello, Colline and Schaunard ? must burn their work at times in order to keep warm.

Because of details like this, Bohme is dramatically powerful right from the start. Although Puccini’s music sounds gloriously happy at times, the sense that the main characters face immense hardships in their daily lives impossible to ignore.

In one of the opera’s best known scenes, Rodolfo hears a timid knock on his door and discovers Mimi, the smiling, weak woman with whom he eventually falls in love. This moment, redefined in Jonathan Larson’s Tony Award-winning musical “RENT” with the scene that includes the song “Light my Candle,” is magical. In Bohme, Rodolfo offers his unexpected visitor the passionate tenor aria “Che Gelida Manina” ? That Icy Little Hand ? in which he introduces himself. “Who am I?” he sings in Italian. “I am a poet. What do I do? I write.”

“How do I live?” he continues. “I live!”

Mimi answers Rodolfo’s passionate introduction shyly with an aria of her own, entitled “Me Chiamano Mimi,” or They Call Me Mimi. The attraction between the young pair blossoms into a love filled with glorious sonorities that build to the climactically beautiful duet, “O Soave Fanciulla,” that ends the first act.

Tiffany Blake, a soprano who took part in last fall’s EOT production of Conrad Susa’s “Transformations,” thinks that the upcoming production of La Bohme “is going to be huge.”

“This is the most well known opera in the repertoire,” Blake said. “I’m sure the community will be looking forward to it because of name recognition alone.”

Bohme will be directed by Steven Daigle, associate professor of opera at Eastman, and conducted by distinguished professor of voice Benton Hess. Hess also functions as the music director of EOT, while Daigle is the group’s stage and dramatic director.

For the performances on April 4 and 6, Janinah Burnett will sing the role of Mimi, Erin Grzybowski will sing Musetta and Cheol Min Jin will portray Rodolfo. Ryan Lathan and J. J. Hudson will round out the cast of Bohemians, along with tenor Lucas Meachem, who joined the Eastman School Symphony Orchestra last month to energetically perform several songs by Aaron Copland. Meachem will play Marcello, the painter wrapped around Musetta’s coy little finger, in this cast.

Marcello will be played by Munenori Sugetani in the cast that will perform April 5 and 7. Also starring in that cast are Melissa Kelly, Elizabeth Brooks, Choong-Hun Lee, Dong-Hoon Park and Adam Martin.

The Eastman Philharmonia, a student group second to none at Eastman, will accompany the music and drama onstage.

According to Daigle, Eastman’s Bohme will be especially successful because “so much of the piece is about young students who are artists.”

“To have a cast that is the age that they should be in the story ? and is also able to sing this ? gives the production a wonderful spirit,” Daigle said.

Heidi Melton and Carolyn Ramzy are two sophomore vocalists who will be singing in Bohme’s chorus. This chorus, comprised of 23 students who were picked after auditions held last semester, is an integral part of the production.

“We’re pretty much on stage for the entire second act,” Melton explained. Melton and Ramzy, both cast as mothers, have two young children ? one 11 and one 14 ? to act alongside on stage.

“We feel very honored to be involved in this production as sophomores,” Melton continued. She and Ramzy are looking forward to the upcoming performances.

Bohme will be performed in the Eastman Theatre Thursday to Saturday, April 4, 5 and 6, at 8 p.m., as well as Sunday, April 7 at 2 p.m. Tickets, which are available through Ticket Express, cost between $8 and $20 and are discounted to UR students who show ID.

EOT puts on one large opera each year in the Eastman Theatre ? operas are otherwise staged in smaller venues like Annex 804 or Kilbourn Hall. Tickets to the group’s last production, Sondheim’s “Passion,” were hard to come by the week the show opened in Annex 804. While Bohme will be staged in a much larger space, there is talk that this production will be extremely popular.

Weiss can be reached at jweiss@campustimes.org.



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