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Another Traditional La bohème in Montréal

Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, Place des Arts
05/21/2011 -  & May 25, 28, 30, June 2, 4, 2011
Giacomo Puccini: La bohème
Marianne Fiset (Mimì), Antoine Bélanger (Rodolfo), Lara Ciekiewicz (Musetta), Étienne Dupuis (Marcello), Pierre Rancourt (Schaunard), Alexandre Sylvestre (Colline), Roy Del Valle (Alcindoro/Benoît), Isaiah Bell (Parpignol), Philip Kalmanovitch (1st Custom Official), Sébastien Ouellet (2nd Custom Official)
Chœur de l’Opéra de Montréal, Claude Webster (chorus master and rehearsal pianist), Orchestre Métropolitain, Giuseppe Pietraroia (conductor)
Alain Gauthier (director), Olivier Landreville (sets), Claude Accolas (lighting), Opéra de Montréal (costumes)

A. Bélanger & M. Fiset (© Y. Renaud)

Opéra de Montréal concluded its 2010-11 season with a new production of Giacomo Puccini’s La bohème. It featured a young cast predominantly from Québec—three of the four principals (Marianne Fiset, Antoine Bélanger and Lara Ciekiewicz) are graduates of the OdM’s fertile training program—Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal.

The first two acts lacked verve and were somewhat static. The acting and pacing were cautious and didn’t fully engage the listener. There was little passion in the love scene between Rodolfo and Mimi, and the evening spent at Café Momus needed more zest. Many of the voices did not project well into the lowest of the three balconies of Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier.

In Act 3, however, the Opera caught its stride. Marianne Fiset’s elegant, luscious soprano was a perfect fit for her colorfully and imaginatively realized Mimì. In Acts 3 and 4 she shone with her surefooted pacing and dramatic sensibility in the duets with Etienne Dupuis (Marcello) and Antoine Bélanger (Rodolfo), as well as in the concluding Act 3 quartet “Dunque è proprio finita!” She has a bright career in store. Bélanger is a lyric tenor with a smaller, but well-centered voice. He needs more power and conviction to deliver convincingly. Dupuis, with his mellow, well-rounded baritone sang splendidly and is a natural thespian. Bass-baritone Alexandre Sylvestre’s Colline was solid and robust. Baritone Pierre Rancourt sang Schaunard with panache and well-rounded tone.

The traditional sets and costumes did little to excite. The principal feature of the new production was an immense spread of windows filling up the entire back wall of the stage, with a silhouette of Paris at the bottom, hardly a typical garret studio of a starving artist. This wall was also used as the backdrop to the Café Momus, thus allowing Act 2 to follow without the curtain coming down. One oddity was a raised, glass-covered enclosure on the floors of both the garret and the café that appeared to be a skylight; in Act 2 it was illuminated while Musetta danced on it.

The Chœur de l’Opéra de Montréal sang well. The Orchestre Métropolitain under the direction of Giuseppe Pietraroia played adequately, but could have done more to invigorate this production.

Earl Arthur Love



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