Florida Grand Opera opened their 72nd Season on Nov. 17, with a production of Giacomo Puccini's "La Bohème" at the Ziff Opera House in the Arsht Center.
This production featured a cast of young singers including Arturo Chacón-Cruz as Rudolfo, Ailyn Pérez as Mimi, Mark Walters as Marcello and Brittany Ann Reneé Robinson as Musetta. The performance was conducted by Ramon Tebar and directed by David Gately.
"La Bohème" tells the story of two sets of star-crossed lovers: consumptive seamstress Mimi and the not so successful writer Rodolfo, and the courtesan Musetta and the impoverished painter Marcello. The story is set in Paris in the 1880's and Puccini's score is one of his most well-known and memorable.
Pérez's interpretation of Mimi was lovely. Her voice is strong and supple and she has a pathos that lends itself very well to the portrayal of the consumptive seamstress. Chacón-Cruz's Rodolfo was not as finely portrayed.
Vocally, he became stronger in the 3rd and 4th acts of the opera, but there were many instances when the middle register of his voice was overpowered by either the orchestra or other singers on stage. That being said, he possesses stellar high notes that have a beautiful tone.
Robinson's Musetta and Walters' Marcello frequently threatened to steal the show away from the leads. Robinson has a lovely and flexible coloratura voice and is a more than capable actress. Her portrayal of the courtesan with a heart of gold was, without a doubt, the highlight of the evening and her performance of the well-known Quando m'en vo aria was flawless. Walters' fine baritone voice was the perfect complement to Robinson's brilliant soprano.
Baritone Ryan Milstead also gave a compelling performance in the smaller role of Schaunard. Milstead has a very pleasing voice and strong stage presence which, coupled with his acting and dancing skills, make him a performer to keep an eye on. He will be appearing in two other productions for Florida Grand Opera this season.
The sets, provided by the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Missouri, were beautifully impressive. And while the scene change between Acts 1 and 2 (which are usually combined with no intermission between them) was excessively long at almost four minutes, the beauty of the production made the wait worthwhile.
The costumes were provided by Malabar, Inc. of Toronto and were very appropriate in their 1880's style, if occasionally too nice and pretty to be realistic for the characters. Mimi's outfits were the main offender in this with her Acts 1, 2 and 4 costumes appearing far more lavish that what a poor consumptive seamstress should have been able to afford.
This production of "La Bohème" is highly entertaining and, overall, tastefully presented and beautifully sung. FGO has proven, once again, that opera is still a viable art form and that it does have a place in the South Florida theatrical scene.
"La Bohème" runs through Dec. 2 at the Ziff Opera House in the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami, and Dec. 6-8 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale. For info or tickets, call the Florida Grand Opera Box Office at 800-741-1010 or visit www.fgo.org