‘La Bohème’: What to know about the Utah Valley School Opera Show

La Bohème” is a story set in 1830s Paris where a poor poet and seamstress lives in the Latin Quarter, a neighborhood rife with nightlife, restaurants and artists. They indulge each other while struggling to survive with their friends.

The characters in this opera “are struggling young artists trying to get their work produced and trying to meet the loves of their lives and somehow turn every impulse they have into the most romantic gesture they can imagine,” said the director Matt augustwho has helmed Broadway shows like “Dr. How the Grinch Stole Seuss’s Christmas!” as well as other regional and international shows.

Costa-Jackson describes ‘La Bohème’ as an amalgamation of ‘Rent’ meets Netflix’s ‘Moulin Rouge’ and ‘Bridgerton’, but August thinks of it more as a period version of the show ‘Friends’ – except for one where Phoebe dies at the end.

The Utah Valley University School of the Arts will present this timeless story, an opera composed by Giacomo Puccini, from January 20 to 24 at the Noorda Center, with renowned soprano Marina Costa-Jackson and tenor Isaac Hurtado. The students will play lead roles from January 26-29.

Hurtado, an assistant voice professor and opera director at Utah Valley University, considers seeing his co-star, Costa-Jackson, a great opportunity in itself. “She’s one of the stars of opera, and she’s there,” he said.

“Then Matt will direct it with his new approach. It comes from outside of opera but from staging on a large scale in big venues,” said Hurtado, adding that these two ingredients combined on stage created something special.

An overview of the process

August had his work cut out for him with a score that was not only incredibly difficult to sing but also to play.

“With such a dense score and such a dense story,” he said. “Almost every moment has been a learning curve.”

But it taught him all that is possible with opera, as the musicians created a “continuously enlightening” experience throughout each rehearsal. Now that rehearsals are over, August feels a certain sadness. It’s the end of the time when he can sit in a room and get beat up by beautiful music.

The main stars, Costa-Jackson and Hurtado, will share the stage with students from Utah Valley University who will sing smaller parts and choruses.

“Everything is in a language that (the students) do not speak. And I noticed a very high level of artistry and professionalism from them,” said Costa-Jackson, who is originally from Utah and has performed in dozens of countries around the world.

When talented artists like Costa-Jackson and Hurtado take their positions and start performing, it unlocks another level of permission for the engagement that students are allowed to be, with their mind, body, and soul, to their roles, August explained.

The scene, like the stars, also has a lot of experience. Estimated to be 20 years old, the stage was originally designed for Arizona Opera and used by opera houses in Utah, Memphis and Honolulu, making it a busy setting.

Are there other shows?

The Noorda will also host “Trey McLaughlin and The Sounds of Zamar” on January 22 for a night full of gospel, musical theater and original compositions.

“The New Year continues our strong comeback to live performance,” said Alex Malone, Executive Director of Noorda. “January will feature one of the most engaging gospel groups in the country. With a full band and choir, Trey McLaughlin and the Sounds of Zamar will fill our concert hall with moving songs, from traditional gospel to pop hits and musical theatre.

Regarding COVID-19 precautions, masks will be encouraged and there will be a 6-8 foot gap between the stage and the audience. In addition, the theater’s ventilation systems have been improved.

Tickets for this weekend’s shows can be purchased at The Noorda’s website.

About Madeline J. Carter

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