Sets & costumes of Puccini blockbuster influenced by Barnes Foundation & Museum of Art collections

When first mounted by Opera Philadelphia in 2012, Davide Livermore’s “visually inventive and colorful” (Opera News) production of Puccini’s La bohème was deemed “an absolute success, full of fine singing and acting, and eye-filling stage direction” (Philadelphia Inquirer). The production, now a staple of the repertoire at the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía in Valencia, Spain, makes its much-anticipated return to Philadelphia this spring with five performances at the Academy of Music, conducted by Opera Philadelphia Music Director Corrado Rovaris (April 26-May 5).

This popular revival of Puccini’s romantic blockbuster draws its inspiration from masterpieces from the treasured collections of the Barnes Foundation and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Vivid projections of some of the world’s most renowned Impressionist art from the turn of the 20th century—including works from Renoir, Monet, van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Cassatt—set the stage at the Academy of Music, with costumes and other design elements influenced by paintings and drawings from the collections.

David B. Devan, General Director & President of Opera Philadelphia, says of the revival: “We are thrilled to welcome the return of this dramatic and imaginative production of Puccini’s beloved masterpiece La bohème, providing a fitting conclusion to our 2018-2019 season. The incredible collections from the Barnes Foundation and the Philadelphia Museum of Art provide a rich patina that combines with the lush melodies of Puccini to create new interactions with both art forms. We see Renoir's Woman Sewing as Mimì sings of her job as a seamstress. Van Gogh's beloved Sunflowers blooms in time with the love of Mimì and Rodolfo, and when Rodolfo famously buys Mimì a bonnet, we see Renoir's Girl with Pink Bonnet. We are honored to bring this experience back to Philadelphia.”

Soprano Vanessa Vasquez—a grand-prize winner at the Metropolitan Opera’s 2017 National Council auditions—makes her company debut as the shy seamstress Mimì, opposite the Rodolfo of Evan LeRoy Johnson, who won acclaim last spring for the “dramatic truth” and “effortless vocal production” (Philadelphia Inquirer) of his star turn as Don José in Carmen. Baritone Troy Cook reprises his Marcello from the 2012 production, in which he offered “a strong, well-rounded portrayal” (Opera News). Opera Philadelphia Emerging Artist Ashley Marie Robillard sings Musetta, Marcello’s muse and sometime girlfriend. The “mellow-voiced and charismatic” (New York Times) baritone Will Liverman, who won raves as Dizzy Gillespie in 2015’s Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD, sings Schaunard, and bass Peixin Chen lends his “aural and interpretive beauty” (WQXR) to the role of Colline. In the dual role of Benoît and Alcindoro, bass Kevin Burdette, acclaimed for his “tour de force of vocal splendor and comic timing” (San Francisco Chronicle), returns to the Academy stage after recent performances in Cold Mountain, The Barber of Seville, and The Elixir of Love.

 

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