Story by Dwight Casimere
Photos: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera
1. Takesha Meshe Kizart as Musetta
2. Vittorio Grigolo as Rodolfo
3.Edward Parks as Schaunard and Shenyang as Colline
4. Maija Kovalevska as Mimi
5. Vittorio Grigolo and Maija Kovalevska as Rodolfo and Mimi
New York--Youthful vitality and terrific singing energizes the Metropolitan Opera's returning production of Giacomo Puccini's La Boheme. The opera is in an extended run at the Metropolitan Opera House in Lincoln Center,New York through Feb. 25. Millions around the world will experience La Boheme this season on the radio and the internet through distribution platforms established by the Met with various media partners. Sirius Channel 78 and XM Channel 79 will carry Metropolitan Opera Radio performances on December 8,February 7 and 22. The February 7 performance will also be available via internet streaming on the Met's web site at www.metopera.org. Two of opera's most celebrated young stars sing the roles of Puccini's star-crossed lovers. Thirty-three year old Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo is the impoverished poet Rodolfo in his Met debut through November. Young Latvian Soprano Maija Kovalevska is his fragile Mimi.Italian baritone Fabio Capitanucci is eloquent as the artist Marcello.
Franco Zeffirelli's production, a Met favorite since 1981, sets the action in an imaginative recreation of Paris's Latin Quarter in the 1830's.
Conductor Roberto Rizzi Brignoli, in his Met debut,lifted Puccini's sweeping romantic score onto the stage right alongside the singers, making it a co-protagonist. Without use of the baton,he used arching,condor-like movements to dispense the composer's sparkling grace notes like fire flies against a nighttime sky.He shaped the swelling,heart-throbbing crescendos with the supple hands of a sculptor.
Tenor Grigolo sang the title role of Rodolfo as if he were revealing his personal emotional biography. The conviction in his voice and his graceful,yet purposeful panther-like movements across the stage recalled the screen performances of a youthful Pacino or present-day DiCaprio more than any operatic star in recent memory. Soprano Kovalevska could not have been a more touching Mimi. Her lost-soul cravings for love and connection reach out to the audience and draw them close to her consumption plagued bosom. They,along with Rodolfo, hope to rescue her from her impending doom.
La Boheme is without question one of the world's most beloved operas. When Rodolfo sings his opening aria, introducing himself to Mimi as,(paraphrasing)"a happy man, content with my dreams, my fantasies, my castles in the air," he elicits an immediate emotional response. The soul swells with joy and a feeling of emotional kinship. His unrealistic optimism and joie de vivre, even in the face of crushing poverty,is enviable.
Similarly, the ensuing cafe scene set in the Latin Quarter,is a visual masterpiece with terrific staging by David Kneuss, lighting design by Gil Wechsler, elaborate costumes by Peter J. Hall and a lively performance by the superb Met Opera Chorus, honed by Chorus Master Donald Palumbo. The dancers and singers,particularly the young children, do an excellent job of establishing the festive air of the scene.
The action of La Boheme is set on Christmas Eve, and its joyous feeling is intoxicating. It provides the framework for the dazzling entrance of the ravishingly beautiful African American soprano and Chicago native Takesha Meshe Kizart as Musetta in her Met debut. She sang and danced the famous Aria,"Quando me'n vo,"commonly known as Musetta's waltz, with flair,reeling off its dizzying high notes with abandon. She played the coquette with a natural air,devoid of diva-like affectation. Instead,she reached within to allow her simmering sensuality to emerge like the heat from a crackling Holiday fire.
La Boheme continues through February. Bulgarian soprano Krassimira Stoyanova will make her Met debut as Mimi December 1. The role of Rodolfo will be sung over its long run by three outstanding tenors who are Met audience favorites. Joseph Calleja will be in his Met role debut in a December run. Piotr Beczala, whose Spring 2010 Rodolfo opposite Anna Netrebko led to sold out houses and rave reviews, will take over the role on January 31. Then, Ramon Vargas, who dazzled Met Live in HD audiences in the role in 2008, steps into the role February 17. For tickets and information visit www.metopera.org.