.‘La bohème’ Closes out Cinnabar

La bohème is sometimes referred to as an opera for beginners. In practice, that means that many people recognize its straightforward plot, with relatable conflicts, as the source material for the Jonathan Larson Broadway smash, Rent. So, staging it as the very last performance at the “little red schoolhouse” in Petaluma, where operas have been produced since 1972, seems a wise choice.

In collaboration with San Francisco’s Pocket Opera, Cinnabar Theater artistic director emeritus Elly Lichenstein took Puccini’s classic and moved it forward in time. Still set in the Latin Quarter of Paris among the “artist” class, it now takes place sometime in the early 1950s. A war-torn and economically gutted city, this Paris seems somehow more familiar than Puccini’s late Victorian France and, for that, somehow more poignant.

Added to the update in time periods is Pocket Opera’s new translation from the original Italian into English. Though the translation intends to make the plot more easily understood, in this case the audience could still benefit from subtitles.

Another big change this production makes, and also its most notable, includes the cast—a true multi-ethnic mix of people. Importantly, they are highly trained and very talented. Of special note is Melissa Sondhi as Musetta, a fun and infuriating character with a big heart who lends some much-needed humanity to the story. Sondhi embodies all of those characteristics without sacrificing any of the annunciations that other actors traded for perfecting the more technical aspects of their roles.

Diana Skavronskaya performs the role of Mimi. While fantastic to listen to and technically brilliant, her powerful presence tended to overwhelm the small space. On top of that, Nicholas Huff, who plays Rodolfo, is a more naturalistic performer. This made for some mismatched moments.

Another mismatch occurred with the costuming, by Donnie Frank. Frank’s choice to costume Mimi—a woman so poor she cannot afford a match—in expensive and pristine clothing proved odd.

Nitpicky issues aside, in the end this play is still a fitting finale to one chapter and a promising window into the future. Even those who think opera is only for the elite, or for rabbits in drag, should give Cinnabar Theater’s production of La bohème a chance.

They might be surprised at the emotions evoked by Puccini’s music and the performers’ obvious love of the craft.

‘La bohème’ runs through July 7 at Cinnabar Theater, 3333 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma. Fri, 7:30pm; Sun, 2pm. $50–$75. 707.763.8920. cinnabartheater.org


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

North Bay Bohemian E-edition North Bay Bohemian E-edition