Giacomo Puccini’s “La bohème” is currently gracing the stage of the Kennedy Center Opera House in the Washington National Opera’s (WNO) lavish and moving production of this beloved masterpiece. From the orchestra’s opening bars, Puccini’s haunting melodies invoke the drama to come—one of deep love, intense jealousy, and crushing heartbreak.
…lavish and moving production…
Huddling in a barren flat, a handful of young artists has banded together to survive the chill of a Parisian winter. When Mimi (Soprano Gabriella Reyes) knocks on the door one evening, Rudolfo (Tenor Kang Wang) is immediately smitten and the two fall madly in love. As the months pass, a tumultuous relationship and Mimi’s deteriorating health threaten to tear the once blissful lovers apart.
Directed by Peter Kazaras, the international cast of singers carry Puccini’s score with dazzling vocal aplomb. Soprano Jacqueline Echols’ (Musetta) delivers a seductive and irreverent “Quando m’en vo,” and together with Gihoon Kim (Marcello), whose agile baritone is both warm and commanding, the two provide moments of welcome comic relief. Kang Wang lent his seemingly effortless tenor to an unforgettable “Che gelida manina,” followed by Mimi’s spectacular rendition of “Si, mi chiamano Mimi.” Reyes, Wang, Echols, and Kim close Act Three with a moving “Addio dolce svegliare alla mattina!”
Set Designer Lee Savage sets the tone for each of the opera’s four acts, contrasting the gray, unheated flat with a festive Cafe Momus followed by steadily falling snow from an overcast sky at the city gate, and an eventual return to the cold, Parisian walk-up. Costume Designer Jennifer Moeller fills the Cafe with exquisitely dressed waiters and patrons; captures Musetta’s spirit by putting her into a bright red 1920s flapper dress; and emphasizes Mimi’s quiet humility with simple country-style dress.
This production marks Conductor Alevtina Ioffe’s WNO debut, having recently been appointed Music Director of the Mikhailovsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, making her the first woman to lead an important musical institution in Russia. As always, the Washington National Opera Orchestra demonstrated the world-class musicianship that makes them a Washington D.C. cultural treasure.
Running time: Two hours and 35 minutes with one 25-minute intermission.
“La bohème” runs through May 27, 2023, at the Kennedy Center Opera House, 2700 F Street, NW, Washington, DC 20566. The performance is in Italian with projected English titles. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here. Masks are optional.