In Review > North America

La Bohème

SAN FRANCISCO
San Francisco Opera
11/14/14

In Review SFO Boheme hdl 215
San Francisco Opera’s double-cast La Bohème, with Adams, Van Horn, Berrugi, Crocetto and Mulligan
© Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera 2015
In Review SFO Boheme sm 215
Fabiano and Voulgaridou as Rodolfo and Mimì
© Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera 2015

San Francisco Opera fielded two strong casts for its November revival of La Bohème. In an elegant production designed by David Farley and directed by John Caird, the thirteen-performance run at the War Memorial Opera House opened on November 14 with Alexia Voulgaridou and Michael Fabiano in the leading roles. The big news in this Bohème was Fabiano, who made an ardent, affecting Rodolfo. His sensitive text readings, coupled with a muscular, effortlessly projected instrument distinguished by thrilling top notes, filled the house with glorious, apparently inexhaustible sound. Voulgaridou, making her company debut, was an alluring Mimì. The Greek soprano’s fresh timbre and expressive phrasing contributed to a sweet, touchingly sung portrayal of the consumptive seamstress. The following night, the second cast brought Leah Crocetto and Giorgio Berrugi to the artists’ garret. Crocetto, who trained with SFO, is an impressively eloquent singer; her large, opulent soprano sounded vibrant in “Mi chiamano Mimì,” and she shaped her performance to poignant effect throughout, delivering her Act III music with solid breath and beautiful line and her Act IV reminiscences with gripping emotional depth. Berrugi, in his company debut, was less precise, exhibiting moments of vocal strain that lessened the impact of an essentially fine Italianate assumption. 

The doubling extended to the secondary roles. In the first cast, Nadine Sierra was a bright, crystalline, if somewhat brittle Musetta; Ellie Dehn inhabited the role with a more fluid sensual appeal and luxuriant phrasing that illuminated “Quando m’en vo” with the requisite glamour. Alexey Markov was an appealing, ebullient Marcello; Brian Mulligan, in the second cast, was just as energetic, while shading the painter with a slightly darker, more volatile aspect. 

Both casts benefited from Christian Van Horn’s Colline, who conferred robust tone and an apt sense of nobility on his coat aria. Hadleigh Adams was an agile, endearing Schaunard. Dale Travis did a deft double turn as Benoît and Alcindoro, lending a keen, randy edge to the landlord and a hint of pathos to Musetta’s duped patron. Ian Robertson’s chorus brought the Café Momus scene to life with flair. San Francisco Opera resident conductor Giuseppe Finzi led a responsive orchestra in a performance that supported the singers well and elicited the warmth and beauty of Puccini’s score in luminous detail.

Farley’s faithfully detailed production, new to San Francisco Opera this season and co-owned by Houston Grand Opera and Canadian Opera Company, is a marvel, with effective sets that glide quickly on and off. (There was one intermission, between Acts II and III.) Nothing was lost in this move to efficiency; the results were as enveloping as any in the company’s recent history. Since its first San Francisco Opera performance, in 1923, La Bohème has been presented here more than two hundred times; even so, these performances emerged as something special. Opening just a month after general director David Gockley announced his intention to retire at the end of the 2015–16 season, this revival capped an outstanding fall and left some local opera-lovers hoping that Gockley might reconsider and stay. spacer 

GEORGIA ROWE

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