Lyric Opera of the North (LOON) Celebrates La Vie Bohème

DD THEATRE REVIEW – Lyric Opera of the North (LOON) Celebrates La Vie Bohème

Lyric Opera of the North’s dazzling production of Puccini’s “La Bohème” wowed their full-house audience on Friday night at UMD’s Marshall Performing Arts Center. Soaring and breathtaking arias, solos, and ensemble songs portray both the blissful happiness and the devastating heartache of love.

From Puccini’s beloved original iconic opera “La Boheme” in 1896 to Jonathan Larson’s modern adaptation “Rent” in 1996, and the award-winning movie “Moulin Rouge” in 2001 and stage musical in 2018, the view into the “carefree” Bohemian lifestyle has long enraptured audiences.

The opera’s little “family” of aspiring artists, the poet/dramatist Rodolfo(Gennard Lombardozzi), the artist Marcello (Bill McMurray), the philosopher Colline (Jeremiah Sanders), and the musician Schaunard (Robert Riordan) enthusiastically portrayed the “hearty fellows well met” who have a shared love of wine, women, and song. Their scenes and songs together evoke the essence of La Vie Boheme, with each having a masterful voice to help tell the story.

Tenor Lombardozzi, as Rodolfo, “victim” of love at first sight, tenderly professed his love for Mimi (soprano Lacy Sauter), in the sweeping “Che gelida manina,’” “What a frozen little hand.” Later, the two blend gorgeously in their duet, “O soave fanciulla" ("O gentle maiden”).

As the pitiful and consumptive heroine, Sauter has heartbreaking songs and scenes throughout. Mimi’s illness causes her to break down, and she eventually returns to the garret one last time to be with Rodolfo.

The standout performance of the evening was from Vicki Fingalson, playing the self-centered and ever-flirtatious, Musetta. Her “Quando m'en vo” or 'Musetta's Waltz” has the most recognizable melody in the opera. With her flaming red hair, her elegant costumes, and her total command of the stage, Fingalson steals the show from her first appearance.

Trying to keep warm in their garret apartment, the struggling artists burn Rodolfo’s manuscript. Production photo

A marvelous 26-piece orchestra, under the direction of conductor Dirk Meyer, provided wonderful accompaniment for the singers and underscore for the events, whether they be romantic or tragic moments. Meyer, in view from the pit, is always a commanding presence with his lyrical conducting style bringing out the best in the musicians.

Under Michael Fuchs's chorus direction, the powerful ensemble, seen in the street and cafe scenes, brought the stage to life with their strong voices and creative characterizations.

An adorable children’s chorus bombards the beleaguered toy-seller Parpignol (Brian Kapp) for their Christmas gifts, bringing moments of joy and excitement to the stage as they enjoy a holiday parade. Their voices, blending in with the adult ensemble, add even more shades and dimension to the score.

Ann Gumpper’s masterful sets, from the colorful Latin Quarter garret to the streets of Paris on Christmas Eve, created the perfect ambiance for the doomed love story to take place. And with the addition of evocative lighting from designer Alex Flinner, the dramatic and beautiful stage pictures were an important element to the show’s overall look and style.

Colorful period costumes, designed by Ora Jewel-Busche, swept the audience away to another place and time. The costumes worn by Musetta and Colin were particularly colorful, helping to establish their characters.

Musetta’s aged suitor helps her remove her shoe. Production photo.

The sheer number of costume pieces from Jewel-Busche, working with Laura Piotrowski (costume construction) was impressive, including everything from ragged paint-covered paints to gorgeous gowns and scores of accessories.

Rodolfo cares for the dying Mimi. Production photo

Director Rose Freeman describes their directing style as the “belief in communal storytelling,” which they do with sure-handed effectiveness in La Bohème. Their overview of “the joyful celebration of each other” shines through in every moment of this production.
By encouraging opera and theatre companies with whom they work to “Live truthfully in imaginary circumstance,” Freeman was able to create both truthful and imaginary worlds at the same time.

Bravo to Sarah Lawrence and Cal Metts, LOON’s co-artistic directors, and their team for bringing over 90 people together to present “La Boheme” to appreciative opera patrons, some long-time and some new audience members, who cheered wildly and stood up for a standing ovation. LOON deserves to build its audience base even more and make more people aware of this true gem of Northland culture.

LOON Presents La Bohème
Composed by Giacomo Puccini
Libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa
LOON's first production of Puccini's classic, featuring passionate lovers, struggling artists, and gorgeous singing. One of the best and most popular operas of all time.
Friday, June 14 at 7:00 pm
Sunday, June 16 at 3:00 pm

Tickets at loonooera.org.Fonr ticket assistance, call 218-464-0922.
Marshall Performing Arts Center (MPAC) at UMD

Up next for LOON is their “Summer Sparkler” concert fundraiser on Tuesday, August 6 at the Historic Scott House. Tickets at loonopera.org or 218-464-0922.

Loon Opera revealed their 20th anniversary season for 2024-25 :“The Impres Ario” & “Circe on Superior” in November; “The Radio Hour” in January; and “Die Fledermaus”  in June o f2025. Season tickets are now available at loonopera.org

They will also present works for their Little Loon 24-25 season by visiting area schools, opera karaoke in September, their annual February fundraiser, and a summer concert at the Historic Scott House in August of 2025.

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About Sheryl Jensen - Arts & Entertainment Editor

A retired educator with the Duluth Public Schools, Sheryl Jensen has been a theater director of over 60 school and community productions. Her production of William Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew at East High School won the National High School Theater award from the BRAVO television network.

Having written theater, music, dance, and opera reviews for the Duluth News Tribune for many years, she now is the Arts & Entertainment Editor for Destination Duluth.

 

 

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