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Manhattnik

Baz Luhrmann's La Boheme

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Just FYI I just heard on WNYC that tomorrow afternoon at 4pm or 4:30? they'll be discussing this program...now that they've seen it, I guess. :)

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I haven't seen this production yet, although I would like to (even though I did not "get" Moulin Rouge, I adored Strictly Ballroom). Anyone who enjoys the music of Boheme in this production should give New York City Opera's productions a try. The singers are generally young and attractive (if that matters to you) and many of the productions are imaginative and not at all stodgy. And if money is a problem, get a standing room place the next time the Met does Boheme - the production there is by Zefferelli, also a movie director, who loves attractive singer-actors and lots of action on stage, and the production values are superb.

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The NY Times in it's Sunday edition on 12-22-02 has a review of this production of La Boheme from the viewpoint of someone who loves opera. (I get parts of the Sunday paper on Saturday!) His major criticsm is that the Broadway production is using amplification for the voices which he basically views as heresy for those who are true opera afficianados. He also complains about the small orchestra being used as compared to what there would be at the Metropolitan Opera House. I was wondering how those who attend La Boheme at the Metropolitan Opera would react to this production and his was obviously not on the favorable side. He feels that the attempt to use young 20 something voices is going to wreck the development of their voices in the true tradition of opera since he feels that the amplification being used is a crutch. He feels that there is a reason that you see older mature performers on the traditional Opera stage. ..you need maturity to find the ability to project your voice without the amplification and to nuance your voice. He definitely feels that something is lost in this production.

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I haven't seen the review yet, but I didn't find the sound to be bothersome at all.

The orchestra was more than adequate, and they have 3 rotating casts to protect the singers voices.

I think the show is meant, as it states in the playbill, to be an intro to opera.

It needs to be viewed and reviewed as a Broadway show.

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The next interesting question is where this production will be placed with regard to the Tonys. Best new musical? I don't think so, if it is indeed faithful to the score and libretto. Best revival? Never played on Broadway. What to do???

My daughter's teacher is really enjoying playing in the orchestra. She has also played at the Met.

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I'm at least relieved that nobody decided to make this production "relevant to our time" (bleah!) by updating the title to "The Beatniks" or something else horrid like that!

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Rkoretzky, the Tonys last year introduced a new category of award, called something like Special Theatrical Event. It's to be used for shows that don't fit into any of the existing categories. Last year it was won by Elaine Stritch's one-woman show. I think that Boheme will probably be nominated for this award.

Mel, are you familiar with Rent? That's an updated version of Boheme — with an all-new score, not Puccini's.

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His main objection to the sound is that it makes it impossible to tell who is singing unless you look at whose mouth is moving at times whereas in an unamplified opera you just follow the glorious sound to its source. He feels that one of the joys of opera is the natural human voice being projected over the full operatic orchestra. So, in his eyes the two problems he sees are young voices using amplification over a paltry orchestra...he thinks it is ruining them for true opera.

Here's the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/22/arts/the...TOMM.html?8hpib

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He is a NY Times music critic whose work I greatly admire, particularly when it comes to opera.

Toward the end of the piece he says "The performance clocks in at a swift 2 hours 15 minutes." This is something that came up earlier on this thread, when Calliope wondered if anything had been cut. With one twenty-minute intermission and two five-minute pauses, that leaves an hour and 45 minutes of music. I checked my old Sir Thomas Beecham recording and found it to be almost exactly that length. Oddly enough, Tommasini mentions that same recording (It's a classic). He says, "Though buoyant, Beecham's performance is much more leisurely." To quote Tommasini, "Go figure." :)

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Oh, yes, I'm quite familiar with Rent, but a new score and new libretto and the new title make just a plot recycling not too hard to take. I do, however, object to Elton John's Aïda, which recycles a title, and a plot. One out of four, OK, two or more out of four, no. I also had stringent objections to what was done in Joseph Papp's ruination of The Pirates of Penzance, and Hal Prince's destruction of Candide, even if the latter were done with the approval and assistance of Leonard Bernstein.

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Hi Ari,

Yup, I think you are correct. I had also heard that Special Event (or whatever the exact title is) would be the cateogry, but there are some issues with that as well, namely that I believe the actors/singers would be excluded from nominations and that only the production could be nomnated. Also the issue of WHO could be nominated has been raised since there are three rotating casts, and TONY tradition dictated that only the opening cast can be nominated.

All of this may seem quite trivial, but I find it most interesting.

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Tommasini has a piece in the NYTimes today that lays out his problems with this La Boheme:

Look What They're Doing to Opera

Yet from a musical perspective, many veteran opera buffs will be dismayed, as I was, by the compromises the production has made, most grievously in its use of body microphones to amplify the singers and two digital sampling keyboards to fill in the instrumental textures that the meager (for Puccini) 26-piece orchestra leaves blank. Newcomers to opera who think they are experiencing the real thing are not.

.......

The amplification of "La Bohème" at the Broadway Theater is far more subtle than the blasting sound systems so common at musicals these days. Still, the actual voices are flattened into an amplified wall of sound, and the spatial element of operatic singing, with voices coming from different locations on the stage, is completely undermined. It's sometimes difficult, especially in the crowd scenes, to tell who is singing without checking to see whose lips are moving. And the voices are thrust at you, even those of the milk maids who, as they pass the city gates in Act III, sing a wistful little tune that is supposed to be subdued and gentle..

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I finally got to see it last night. None of the hoopla and excitement which greeted this production was in evidence. And I was sad to see how slim the attendance was. The cast ranged from competent to pretty good. I didn't care for Jessica Comeau's Musetta. She sang well enough, but instead of acting flirty, she seemed borderline psychotic.

The miking didn't bother me at all. It was not that different from what happens at NYCO. What DID bother me was the non-reaction of the audience at the end of the great arias and duets: Che Gelida Manina; Mi Chiamano Mimi; Ah Mimi, Tu Piu Non Torni; Vecchia Zimarra, Senti -- no applause after any of them. Even mediocre renditions of these provoke ovations at the opera house. But here, nothing -- a unique and depressing experience for me. That peculiarity aside, I enjoyed the show and hope business picks up before it's too late.

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The conventional wisdom seems to be that the Boheme buzz is kaput, and its Tony chances are not good. That's showbiz......

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it's only doing 60% attendance...I'd say after the Tony's it will close

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Gee, and I was just thinking I might finally get to see it. :(

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well Telecharge is doing discounted tickets now, so get them before the Tony's.

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I saw it, I saw it! Tuesday night, with a group of librarians from Russia who were visiting my library for the past week. Daughter came along too, and even though I had not gotten a playbill online discounted ticket for her as I did for the rest of us, she was able to pick up a ticket at TKTS for even less. We all loved it.

The theater was not full, but it certainly was a good house. I only saw a large block of empty seats in the last few rows of the rear mezz. We were sitting front mezz, 4th row. Perfect seats.

Not a large house by any means. It was a delight to be so close to the singers. I did not notice any miking or amplification, so although I am sure it was there, it didn't blast or offend the ears in any way. There was no distortion of the voices that I could discern.

I think the change of time period suits the production, and the story, very well. And Juliet--oh my yes--the RED DRESS! In fact, I am going to disagree with my very good friend Farrell Fan, and say that Jessica Comeau's Musetta made the show for me. I was absolutely entranced by her "Quando M'en Vo". The red hair and the red dress...to die for. I have heard many renditions of Musetta's Waltz, in fact I just listened to THE VOICE of Renee Fleming on the Dream Cast CD, and even though Fleming does have the voice of the century, I preferred Comeau's freshness, sauciness, her racy-ness. It was a different interpretation, for sure, and one that I adored. I, for one, found Mimi to be a bit over-flirty, to tell the truth, although Ekaterina Solovyeva has the voice of an angel (and since I was accompanying Russians to the theater I was delighted that we got the Mimi from St. Petersburg), I am accustomed to a quieter and more shy Mimi.

Only one of my visitors spoke English fluently, and one spoke none at all, but I had a translation of the synopsis in Russian, and it didn't matter anyway--the story is easy to follow, even without the supertitles. I did find the different fonts a bit distracting at first, until I got used to it, then I didn't even notice.

I'm not too worried about this production closing imminently. The theater was quite full, the lines for the rush tickets are still long (my daughter and her friends had tried several times without success), and the audience was appreciative.

Wednesday afternoon we ran over to the Met to catch "Hereafter". I'm almost scared to say that I liked it--after the reviews and the reactions here. But that is for another thread.

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