Despite rough edges, MLO brings an admirable cast and love for Puccini to “La Bohème”

By Inesa Gegprifti

and Nathalie Avila in  Miami Lyric Opera's production of Puccini's "La Boheme."

Darren Stark and Nathalie Avila in Miami Lyric Opera’s production of Puccini’s “La Bohème.”

Miami Lyric Opera (MLO) is in its 16th year of musical activity. Founder and artistic director, Raffaele Cardone, prefaced Saturday night’s  performance of La Bohème, by stating that they like their operas to stay true to the originals. Saturday night’s staging and costumes showed just that—a reverence for the blueprints of the premiere performance of February 1, 1896 in Turin, including the cover art on the program notes.  

The MLO production, presented on the stage of South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, is a detailed work of art in itself–with russet-tinged paint, antique wooden furniture, and dim lighting that transported one to the bohemian lifestyle of Paris in the mid-19th century. The crew managed to even create the illusion of snowfall in the austere backdrop of a February day in Act III.

Although La Bohème is Puccini’s most performed opera, its contemporary reviews were mixed—mostly due to its difficulty and the innovative use of orchestral textures in combination with the vocal lines. Puccini’s characteristic voice is radiant throughout the score, placing him well-ahead of his time and of the preceding operas of stile bel canto, then beloved by broad audiences. 

Puccini’s dark yet hopeful score, especially in his portrayal of the tenor, showcases a touching depiction of the life of 19th century artists

Young artists Nathalie Avila (Mimì) and Darren Stark (Rodolfo) showed nuanced vocal ability in their believable and powerful execution as the unfortunate lovers, destined to not be together as Mimì dies of poor health. 

Stark, as the passionate poet, was by far the most polished singer in the cast. He smoothly navigated the difficult role with near-perfect diction and thoughtfully-inflected phrasing. 

Avila’s performance as the sweet Mimì brilliantly exhibited her rich lower and middle register; however her high register was too often overly vibrated, and her narrow vowels projected an angular tone. That apart, her performance resonated with musicality, particularly in “Mi chiamano Mimì,” “Donde lieta uscì,” and as Mimì takes her last breaths in the final scene.

As the second quarrelsome couple, Oscar Martinez as Marcello and Diana Thompson as Musetta contributed dynamic performances, giving the storyline a welcome multidimensionality. Martinez highlighted Marcello’s light-hearted outlook on love.

In “Quando m’en vo’,” Thompson’s tone projection and diction were not at their best; however, she conveyed the free-spirited character of Musetta, with her charm and coquetteish demeanor.

The orchestra, directed by Doris Lang Kosloff, unfortunately did not fully live up to the demands of the score, lacking in pitch, timing, and balance. Although the conductor and musicians were attentive in their collaboration with the singers, the ensemble work was wanting in precision, as was the chorus. 

Even with its rough edges, MLO’s performance surely transmitted the company’s care and infectious love put into the beautiful music of Puccini. 

MLO repeats La Bohème 4 p.m. Sunday at at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center.


Posted in Performances

2 Responses to “Despite rough edges, MLO brings an admirable cast and love for Puccini to “La Bohème””

  1. Posted Apr 15, 2018 at 6:58 pm by Bea Menen

    I just left the theater. One of the best cast I ever seen. The performance was beautiful, make you felt you were there, in the little apartment in the 19 century and make you feel that you wanted to to help too, help the sweet Mimi. The singing was so touching that got to you. Congratulations! It was worth it.

  2. Posted Apr 15, 2018 at 9:20 pm by Maria Martinez

    I think that South Fl Classical Review should be more careful when selecting the reviewers. This review does not even talk about the rest of the cast, the characters of Schunard, Colline, Benoit and so on.

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Sun Apr 15, 2018
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