A new combination of actors and singers are prepared to bring Giacomo Puccini’s classic opera La Bohème to life. Focusing on the celebration of life, Opera San Luis will be performing La Bohème at the Performing Arts Center April 9 and 11 at Cal Poly.
Artistic Director and conductor Robert Ashens compares the evolution and coming together of his characters to making a special sauce.
“Each sauce is a little different every day because the ingredients are slightly different,” Ashens said. “Its exactly the same thing with the performances. I look forward to watching the sauce of my characters blend and gel together into a great new production.”
La Bohème tells the story of a young couple in Paris, Mimi and Rodolfo, who fall in love. Their relationship grows throughout the story along with their group of friends who are trying to make ends meet. La Bohème’s story has been the inspiration for other productions including Rent, which is a more modern adaptation of the storyline, and portions of Moulin Rouge.
The opera oftentimes gets over-looked because it is one of the more expensive art forms. Managing Director Sharon Dobson said it is expensive because many props and costumes are needed to tell the story. She said she is excited for Cal Poly students to experience the opera and La Bohème is the perfect one because the message speaks to all age groups.
“It just takes one time to be hooked and La Bohème is that opera,” Dobson said. “It’s like the Titanic in terms of opera repertoire.”
Dobson said opera is story-telling through music and the message of La Bohème gets delivered through the music, drama and movement that is involved.
“It really celebrates the preciousness of life and living in the moment,” Dobson said. “These artists are not rich in financial terms and that’s what we tend to measure people’s worth in; they’re rich in friendship.”
The performances will include members from the community and also Cal Poly students. Music freshman Katelyn Holliday has been working with Opera San Luis since she was 11-years-old. La Bohème will be her seventh performance for the company. Holliday is excited for the show in which she will be performing as a chorus member and enjoys the storyline and music by Puccini. She said she appreciates the experiences she is gaining in working with this production.
“If I didn’t have this experience, I know I’d be in a lot different space than I am now since a lot of people who sing don’t have the movement with it too,” Holliday said. “Learning how to move around on the stage and still use your vocal techniques is hard to do.”
Holliday said she wants Cal Poly students to step outside of what they normally do and attend the opera.
“One thing that can attract students now is that La Bohème was such an inspiration for Rent and I know a lot of people love Rent,” Holliday said. “Coming to see this and what really inspired it can be a phenomenal experience.”
Opera San Luis is a company that has been in the San Luis Obispo community for the past 25 years and is the only professional opera company on the Central Coast.
Ashens said opera is not just limited to the major cities in the country such as Chicago, New York City or San Francisco. He said opera is being produced at a grass-roots level and Opera San Luis is trying to keep the art form alive.
La Bohème is an opera that was first performed in 1896 in Italy and has been performed for over a century throughout the world. Ashens said La Bohème is one of the greatest operas of all-time because the storyline deals with everyday events that the audience feels including love and separation. He compared the production to the TV show Friends in which there are a group of people who all do different things and always meet together at the same place. They help each other and fall in love just like in La Bohème as well.
Before each performance, Ashens meets with the audience to tell them what to look and listen for in the show. He said he wants the audiences to see the possibilities that the production has to offer.
“Nobody is going to like absolutely everything that we produce, but they are going to have a damn good time,” Ashens said. “They are going to have a great time just being there and that’s really important.”