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Still youthful at age 120

Cooperstown (Alice Busch Theater)
07/08/2016 -  & July 17, 24, 26, 28, August 1, 6*, 9, 11, 13, 19, 22, 23, 27, 2016
Giacomo Puccini: La bohème
Hunter Enoch (Marcello), Raquel Gonzálex (Mimì), Michael Brandenburg (Rodolfo), Vanessa Becerra (Musetta), Rhys Lloyd Talbot (Colline), Brian Vu (Schaunard), Dale Travis (Benoît, Alcindoro), David Walton (Parpignol), Johnathan McCullough (Custom-House Officer), Rafael Porto (Sergeant)
The Glimmerglass Festival Chorus, David Moody (chorus master), Tracy Allen (children's chorus master), The Glimmerglass Festival Orchestra, Joseph Colaneri (conductor)
E. Loren Meeker (director), Kevin Depinet (set designer), Erik Teague (costume designer), Eric Sean Fogel (choreographer), Robert Wierzel (lighting designer)

M. Brandenburg & R. González (© Karli Cadel)

The big challenge in mounting a production of an opera as well known (and too frequently seen) as La bohème is to achieve a feeling of freshness while still respecting the parameters of the drama. E. Loren Meeker’s production, assisted by Joseph Colaneri’s peppy conducting, succeeds terrifically. There is a real feeling of spontaneity right from the get-go with the lively physicality of the four male bohemians.

Kevin Depinet’s scenery changes swiftly from the Act I garret to the Act II street scene, and the quick and intricate business called for is deftly staged; this is where Eric Sean Fogel’s choreographed movements subtly blend with verismo acting. The splendid children’s chorus gets an all-too-brief moment on stage.

Mimì is shown to be quite the flirt, as when she blows out her candle the second she spies Rodolfo. Like the rest of the youthful cast (listed above), Raquel González encompasses her role as to the manner born. The work’s full range from joy to despair is vividly displayed. Rarely have I heard Rodolfo’s anguish so ardently expressed - kudos to Michael Brandenburg.

The time of the action is updated to the 1890s. This does no harm and allows us to see Musetta, performed by Glimmerglass Young Artist Vanessa Becerra, as fan of the can-can.

La bohème was the first opera Glimmerglass presented back in 1975. The festival can’t stand accused of over-exploiting this chestnut, however; following productions in 1990 and 2000, this is just their fourth.

Positive word of mouth has resulted in the addition of a fourteenth performance on August 23. An extra added attraction is an exhibition of Toulouse-Lautrec works at the Fenimore Art Museum, along with vintage designs and costumes from La bohème productions at the Metropolitan Opera.

Michael Johnson



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