Montmartre for a night

faux arc de triomphe

faux arc de triomphe

This is a prop from the pre-show party at last night’s performance of La Bohème. We were also greeted by phony Parsian street-lamps, the spectacular and ever-changing view of downtown from the terrace, and a pianist and saxophonist playing jazzy music outdoors for all before the show and at intermission time.

For once, Musetta did not steal the show from Mimi. For once, the pink bonnet that figures in the plot was not a ridiculous-appearing and completely unbecoming item. The orchestra and chorus continue to sound better and better. The chorus of children was delightfully costumed and sang most professionally. The lighting was unremarkable. Alcindoro and Perpignol (Holton Johnson, who has been the juvenile star of so many Gilbert & Sullivan productions) were as fine as it’s possible to be.

Among the surprises of the evening was a return to singing the national anthem, but in a much snappier and expeditious arrangement, without lagging and grandiosity. For those who love singing in large groups (and I do), it was inspiriting, especially because words were not projected on the supertitle screens and the verse was over before the slower-witted even caught on. Another surprise was that our mayor, Lee Leffingwell, was unmasked as a uniformed bandsman during the Momus scene.

This is a excellent standard production of the opera, with singers who are agile and who sound fine. For me, the first scene is always tedious, and I always love the Cafe Momus scene entertaining no matter how it’s staged and am much more moved by the scenes preceding it than by the final scene itself. That was true last night, as well.

I don’t want to spoil the performance for those attending a performance of La Bohème for the first time, lured by the promotional allusions to Rent. It’s obvious that there were many in the audience who may not even be accustomed to going to the movies, let along a live theatrical performance. Evidence included late arrivals by people who expected to be seated at that time anyhow rather than wait, talking after the lights went down, kicking of seatbacks, applause in odd places, and a considerable exodus between the first scene and the second even though the hall was dark and there was no intermission listed in the program (they were kindly set straight by the ushers and returned to their seats).

This production is an excellent introduction to a stage standard. As always, there’s nothing to beat a performance that incorporates, acting, full costuming and staging, singing, and a complete orchestra, delighting the ears and right before your very eyes, in a hall that seems to have no bad sightlines. Remaining performances are this coming Wednesday at 7:30 pm; Friday, Novemer 13, at 7:30 pm; and Sunday, November 15, at 3 pm. There was valet parking available for $16 and people were actually using it.

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