Romantic opera still speaks so loudly to us today

ONE of the most romantic of all operas, this production of Bohemian came to Kenton courtesy of Opera Holloway.

This traveling company of young singers was formed to promote opera and the careers of young artists and to present shows accessible to the public, especially to new audiences.

The story of Bohemian talks about young people without much money, falling in and out of love and, of course, one of the central characters tragically dies in the arms of her lover.

Some may regard opera as light or superficial, but it remains one of the most popular operas with masses of sublime and beloved music.

If the players take acting seriously and have very good vocals, then the production can do justice to Puccini’s sumptuous and breathtakingly beautiful music.

This young company delivered and their singing made me cry sometimes.

Director Fiona Williams’ production was a scaled-down version with scaled-down cast, score and characters, set not in Paris but in present-day Worthing in West Sussex.

The surtitles were artfully free with translation, occasionally inserting up-to-date references to bankers (and the associated rhyming insult), gamblers, couch surfing, and of course the author working on a laptop. The impoverished young graduates, who lived in somewhat dismal rented accommodation, drank and had a lot of fun, ate horrible take-out, and spent time chatting about their girlfriends, who unfortunately needed rich men for them. to support.

The production was fun with a touch of pantomime but led to the ultimate inevitable tragedy with appropriate drama. Overall, the concept of the current updated framework has worked well.

But of course it is the music that is essential.

Conductor Lewis Gaston and a small ensemble of flute, clarinet, violin and French horn did a good background job while all the singers provided extraordinarily strong and beautiful voices.

Alex Haigh and Callie Gaston, who played the tragic lovers Rodolfo and Mimi, are known locally through Opera Prelude – which, like Opera Holloway, supports young opera singers.

Rodolfo’s splendid tenor voice was mostly strong and confident and Mimi managed to sing beautifully throughout, even on her deathbed. The other two lovers, Musetta (sung by Lorena Paz Nieto) and Marcello (Sam Oram) were both formidable, able to express a whole range of emotions while still maintaining a beautiful, energetic vocals.

Nieto easily rose from the stage of strutting flirtatious on the stage rejecting lovers at the expression of deep empathy and intense love for Marcello and his friend Mimi.

These four characters were ably supported and complemented by the rest of the cast, Matthew Thistleton, Louis Hurst, and Konrad Jaromin, although Konrad is far too young and good-looking for the two roles he played.

That said, his characterization of the owner and the elderly lover was played with great glee and verve, and his bass voice suited the roles.

This opera company brings young talents to many audiences who would find it hard to see traditional productions. It is an impressive company that deserves to be supported.

Although the story portrays poverty with a light touch, the director’s program notes point out that substandard housing and the lack of essential social services are still there today.

By placing production in the present, this company not only provided a wonderful vehicle for a talented group of singers, but demonstrated the continued relevance of this fabulous 19th century opera house.

Susan edwards

About Madeline J. Carter

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