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New Haven Register: Yale Opera’s ‘La Boheme’ opens at the Shubert in New Haven
New Haven Register
By Joe Amarante
Crowd-pleasing opera “La Bohème,” about young, starving artists in love, arrives at the Shubert Theater on Valentine’s Day for a weekend run, presented by Yale School of Music and Yale Opera. Just don’t expect a Hallmark card confection.
Oxford-trained director Michael Gielata said that with other, older opera troupes, you can end up with an “exquisite singer in their 40s or 50s (often well-fed) playing an 18-year-old.” He’s also not fond of “whipped-cream, cardboard box, chocolate cake ‘Bohèmes.’ That’s not what poverty looks like. That’s not what the gutters of Paris of that time looked like.”
Gieleta, who is directing “La Bohème” for the first time after thinking about its staging for many years, said he’s going for the “verismo, truthfulness” that Giacomo Puccini had in mind when he penned the “operatic play in four acts” based on Henri Murger’s tragi-comic novel of the era.
“I must admit that I remember seeing, at a very eminent company in this country, a production of ‘La Bohème’… and I just remember leaving thinking ‘I don’t know who these people are.’ And I remember walking into the bookshop and buying a copy of Murger’s ‘Bohemians of the Latin Quarter,’” Gielata said. “I actually think we’re stripping off the ‘Boheme’ from that whipped-cream nonsense that got somehow, over the years, put all over it.”
Gielata said that by doing a more focused piece about the young bohemians, he expects that even fans of “La Bohème” will be “noticing elements that one never really realized were there.”
Yale Opera doesn’t have the Met’s $2 million sets, but “by focusing on the performances and the characters rather than massive sets of the Parisian skyline, one will notice more, one will see and hear more,” Gielata said. “Because when you have 80 people on stage running around, I often find myself at different performances of ‘Bohème’ not knowing where to look.”
The Shubert is a “grand” setting, of course, well-suited to host the 24-person chorus, on-stage Philharmonia Orchestra of Yale, 12-person cast and extras in this production.