Director Peter Rothstein has set the piece in Nazi-occupied Paris in the early 1940s, with just a few subtle touches to hint at the evil cloud hanging over the city, added to our artist characters' struggle with love, loss, disease, poverty, and yes, paying rent, that fuels the story. Rodolfo meets Mimi, and they embark on a sweet but troubled love affair, complicated by her declining health. Marcello reunites with his ex Musetta, but that doesn't run smoothly either. Despite the troubles and terrors of the day (Colline wears a yellow star on his coat, soldiers with swastika armbands roam the streets), they, together with friends Colline and Schaunard, celebrate life, art, and the Bohemian way.
|Marcello (Tony Potts) and Musetta (Katherine Henly)
with the model of Paris in the background (photo by Dan Norman)
|Colline (Rodolfo Nieto) removes his yellow star
(photo by Dan Norman)
This production uses new orchestration by Joseph Schlefke, created for Theater Latte Da's original 2005 production. The full orchestra has been reduced to a five-piece band: piano, guitar, woodwinds, violin, and accordion, the intention being to better represent the music that our characters would've been hearing in 1940s Paris cafes. With music direction by Sonja Thompson (on piano), the sound is gorgeous and absolutely nothing is missing. I don't know if the performers are miked or not, but if I couldn't tell, that's a good thing because everything sounds natural and as it should. At times characters can be heard singing from backstage or offstage behind the audience, the sound appropriately muffled but still clear where it's coming from (sound supervisor Nicholas Tranby).
Two years is a long time to wait for an opening night, unimaginable for the performers and creative team that worked so hard. But now the wait is over and their work is finally on view, and it was worth the wait. You can see this gorgeous and unique re-imagining of the classic opera La Bohème at the Ritz Theater in Northeast Minneapolis through February 27 (click here for more info, detailed schedule, and COVID safety policy).
Viva la vie bohème!