“La Boheme” at the Academy is an audio and visual delight

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Tenor Evan LeRoy Johnson as Rodolfo and baritone Troy Cook as Marcello. Photo by Steven Pisano.
Tenor Evan LeRoy Johnson as Rodolfo and baritone Troy Cook as Marcello. Photo by Steven Pisano.

Opera Philadelphia closes the season with an amazing production

La Bohème is the closing production of Opera Philadelphia’s 2018-2019 season. And it’s one for the books! It’s hard to express just how amazing it is to have such a company in close proximity to our readers. If you have never seen an Opera Philadelphia production, you absolutely should! You will be transformed to a whole new world, or time, or both. It’s simply a treat you owe yourself.

La boheme scene with Toffer Mihalka as Parpignol. Photo by Steven Pisano.
“La boheme” scene with Toffer Mihalka as Parpignol. Photo by Steven Pisano.

Puccini’s La Bohème is story of broke but happy bohemian artists living in the Latin Quarter of Paris in a sub par loft wiggling their way out of paying rent by tricking the landlord. Does this sound familiar? If you know the story of RENT then you know La bohème. Written 100 years apart the story is essentially the same, but tuberculosis is the tragic disease of the time while in RENT it was AIDS.

Once again, the casting for La Bohème is perfect, and the singing unprecedented. Several of the artists in this production have been in recent Opera Philadelphia productions such as The Magic Flute, Cold Mountain, and last years Carmen with one exception, Vanessa Vasquez who plays the sickly seamstress Mimi, who is making her Opera Philadelphia debut.

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"La Boheme" with Rodolfo meeting his neighbor Mimi (soprano Vanessa Vasquez) who has come to ask for a light for her candle.
“La boheme” with Rodolfo meeting his neighbor Mimi (soprano Vanessa Vasquez) who has come to ask for a light for her candle. Photo by Steven Pisano.

Mimi is the lover of Rodolfo, beautifully played by tenor, Evan LeRoy Johnson. Their chemistry is palpable and I expect we’ll be hearing Vanessa’s lyric soprano again soon.

Set design is integral to this production

It’s not unusual for me to mention the set design being an integral part of all of Opera Philadelphia’s shows, and this is no exception. The backdrop for all the scenes are famous works of art from the Barnes Museum, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. They are brought to life by animation complete with sparkling stars and smoking chimneys. The paintings are another character and lend so much vibrancy to this show.

La bohème is running until May 5, 2019 at the Academy of Music.