A scene from the Cincinnati La bohème

La bohème, an opera in four acts by Giacomo Puccini, is one of the most frequently performed operas worldwide. Composed to a libretto by the team of Illica and Giacosa, La bohème is based on the 1851 Henri Murger novel Scènes de la vie de bohème (Scenes of the Bohemian Life) set in the Paris of the 1840s.

The title La bohème refers to the Bohemian lifestyle of Rodolfo (poet), Marcello (painter) and his heartthrob Musetta, Colline (philosopher), and Schaunard (musician).  When Mimì, their neighbor comes one night to get Rodolfo’s help with a light for her spent candle, the two immediately fall in love.

The Cincinnati Opera returned to Music Hall after an absence of two years with a very good production of Puccini’s La bohème. Co-produced with the Opéra de Montréal, conducted by Mark Gibson and directed by Alain Gauthier, it features soprano Talise Trevigne as Mimì, tenor Ji-Min Park as Rodolfo, soprano Raven McMillon as Musetta, baritone Rodion Pogossov as Marcello, bass André Courville as Colline, and baritone Ethan Vincent as Schaunard.

In tonight’s performance, bass-baritone Kenneth Shaw stepped in for the ailing Thomas Dreeze in the role of Alcindoro, threatening to abscond with the show thanks to his hilarious acting.

Soprano Talise Trevigne shone as a dramatically vulnerable, vocally resplendent Mimì, establishing herself as the heart and soul of the production from the moment she first entered the stage. The American soprano delivered a lovely Mi chiamano Mimì, and a heartbreaking Donde lieta uscì.

In the central role of Rodolfo, Korean tenor Ji-Min Park’s sizeable voice regrettably threatened to overwhelm the much-needed balance with his Mimi and with the other Bohemians. Park would do well to judiciously husband his vocal resources and observe Puccini’s very specific dynamic markings.

As the story’s other lovers, Raven McMillon’s assertive, vocally on-point Musetta and Rodion Pogossov’s rock-solid Marcello, were just about perfect, nicely clarifying the subtleties of their characters’ rocky relationship.

Bass André Courville as Colline, and baritone Ethan Vincent as Schaunard capably fulfilled the requirements of their roles, with Courville’s Vecchia zimarra a highlight of the final act.

As directed by Alain Gauthier, the production offered many nuanced moments that gave vivid life and logic to the relationships of the characters. Only one quibble with the staging has to do with the morphing unit set, in its transition from bohemian attic to Café Momus failed to clarify just exactly where the stage action was located.

Maestro Mark Gibson helmed the peerless Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in a seamlessly pliable reading of Puccini’s score, proving himself to be a singer’s conductor who will hopefully be welcomed back in the future for more assignments.

Rafael de Acha (c) 2022

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