La Bo­heme res­onates 120 years later

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - FRONT PAGE - MATT OL­SON

The story of young and im­pov­er­ished lovers try­ing to find their way in a harsh and un­for­giv­ing time was rel­e­vant 120 years ago and re­mains so, says La Bo­heme di­rec­tor Char­lie Peters.

“It’s shock­ingly rel­e­vant to what we’re cur­rently liv­ing,” Peters said. “It’s a story about these de­light­ful char­ac­ters and their re­la­tion­ships. It’s a very per­sonal story.”

The tragic and beau­ti­ful story is in the top five most com­monly per­formed op­eras, ac­cord­ing to an opera sta­tis­tics web­site. Even if you’re not de­voted to Ital­ian opera, there’s a mod­ern take on it in the Broad­way mu­si­cal Rent.

In par­tic­u­lar, the early scenes in the opera are closely reflected in the mu­si­cal. And the in­genue Mimi is a char­ac­ter in both.

“If some­one’s com­ing in be­cause they love Rent, they’ll find both a lot of things that are nice touch­stones for them, but also new things to dis­cover,” Peters said.

Per­form­ers from Saska­toon and Saskatchewan make up more than half the lead­ing cast while the en­tire de­sign team is com­prised of lo­cal artists. Chris Don­levy (Parpig­nol) said it’s a great ex­pe­ri­ence to per­form in front of a home crowd.

“I want to be able to sing for my fam­ily, and for my friends, and for the place where I grew up,” said Don­levy, who is study­ing in Man­i­toba. “I think it’s cool to show Saska­toon that we have this cul­ture of opera that is some­thing re­ally spe­cial, that we are al­lowed to take pride in.”

Don­levy said Saska­toon Opera’s ver­sion of the Puc­cini opera is mod­ern, not a “mu­seum piece.” It’s im­por­tant to him that it ap­peal to all de­mo­graph­ics.

“I think every­body can hear this mes­sage, and have it leave the the­atre with them,” Don­levy said. “It’s open to every­body, and that’s a big part of the show.”

Many sen­si­tive themes are ex­plored in the opera such as love, sick­ness, poverty and death. De­spite the dif­fi­cult top­ics, or per­haps be­cause of them, Peters said there are a lot of things to love about the pro­duc­tion.

“It’s a bit of a roller-coaster, hon­estly,” Peters said. “It goes from, re­ally, the heights of joy and silli­ness and play­ful­ness to the real lows that are in hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence, and that, to me, is the height of artis­tic achieve­ment.”

Clarence Frazer (Mar­cello), from left, Mar­cel d’en­tremont (Rodolfo), and France Belle­mare (Mimi), un­der­take the tragic and beau­ti­ful story of La Bo­heme in Saska­toon Opera’s up­com­ing show.

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