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Opera
DONIZETTI'S DON PASQUALE HAS LYRICAL CHARM IN MENDOCINO FESTIVAL PRODUCTION
by Elly Lichenstein
Friday, July 14, 2017
Mendocino Music Festival's production of Donizetti's beloved opera buffa Don Pasquale - a one-night affair July 15 that was presented in an enormous tent on a greensward overlooking the Pacific Ocean - delighted an audience of more than 600 while doing some real justice to this frothy gem of commedi...
Opera
ONE-NIGHT STAND AT MMF'S ABDUCTION FROM THE SERAGLIO
by Terry McNeill
Friday, July 15, 2016
Mozart’s Opera “Abduction from the Seraglio” has a long reputation as being tough for singers, and it was with some trepidation that I entered the Mendocino Music Festival’s massive white tent July 15 to hear and see the new production from the 30th season. Not to Worry. Conducted by Festival Arti...
Opera
FROTHY FROLICKING AT CINNABAR'S MAGICAL FLUTE
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, June 11, 2016
Though having just two acts, Mozart’s Opera “The Magic Flute” encompasses a jumbled fairy tale plot with complicated staging and myriad performers in demanding vocal roles. Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater took up the arduous challenge of this 1791 work, among Mozart’s last, in a series of performances ...
Opera
OPERA BUFFA HI JINX IN ROSSINI'S BARBER AT MENDO FESTIVAL
by Ken Bullock
Friday, July 17, 2015
During his July 17 lecture before the sole Mendocino Music Festival performance of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, stage director Eugene Brancoveanu spoke of Commedia Dell’Arte. Mr. Brancoveanu, who sang the baritone title role of Figaro, alluded to the stylized clowning that is sometimes p...
Opera
SIR JOHN'S VISUAL FEAST IN CINNABAR THEATER FALSTAFF PRODUCTION
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, June 13, 2015
Verdi’s operas tend to have a visceral impact on listeners, the connection forged by emphasizing starkly realistic human emotions and glorious tunes for singers and richly hued orchestra writing. But not in his last opera written in 1893: Falstaff. In only the Italian master's second comedy, Fals...
Opera
HILARIOUS "MARRIAGE OF FIGARO" AT CINNABAR
by Nicki Bell
Friday, May 30, 2014
The Cinnabar Theater mounted a delightful, madcap, rambunctious, completely charming, extremely funny, very classy production of Mozartʼs opera "The Marriage of Figaro" from May 30 to June 15. With the feel of a 1920s Upstairs/Downstairs farce, it was sung in English and easily understood. Tho...
Opera
POWERFUL OPENING NIGHT FOR CINNABAR'S CARMEN
by Vaida Falconbridge
Saturday, June 1, 2013
When "Carmen" debuted at the Opera Comique in 1875, it was poorly received. Its composer, Georges Bizet, died a few months later, thinking he had written another failure. Now widely considered the most popular opera in the world, "Carmen" was excellently performed and given an enthusiastic reception...
Opera
OPERATIC TWIN BILL OPENS AT SONOMA STATE
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 7, 2013
Two one-act operas--Haydn's "The Deserted Island" and Vaughan Williams' "Riders to the Sea"--currently being mounted by Sonoma State University's music, theater and dance departments, reflect the University's usual innovative staging and production. On the Feb. 7 opening night Person Theater's 400 ...
Opera
HENNESSEY TRIUMPHS IN CINNABAR'S WEST COAST PREMIERE OF TOBIAS PICKER'S EMMELINE
by Richard Riccardi
Friday, May 28, 2010
Cinnabar Theater continues to excel in the Northern California music world. This small company has once again raised the musical and theatrical bar in their terrific production of Tobias Picker’s 1996 opera “Emmeline” that opened a West Coast premiere May 28 to a boisterous full house in their smal...
Opera
ARDENT CHEMISTRY IN CINNABAR'S PUCCINI OPERA
by Elaine Trowbridge
Friday, November 6, 2009
Puccini’s “La Bohème” continues to be one of the most popular operas of all time, a verismo tale of impoverished young artists and writers living in Paris’ Latin Quarter. It opens as they confront the challenges of staying warm and paying the rent. These problems are handled with great humor, spon...
OPERA REVIEW
Cinnabar Theater / Friday, October 30, 2009
La Bohème
By Giaccomo Puccini
Single Tickets: Presale $35 General, $32 Senior & Student. At the door $35 to $38

Will Hart Meyer and Leslie Sandefur in "La Bohème"

ARDENT CHEMISTRY IN CINNABAR'S PUCCINI OPERA

by Elaine Trowbridge
Friday, November 6, 2009

Puccini’s “La Bohème” continues to be one of the most popular operas of all time, a verismo tale of impoverished young artists and writers living in Paris’ Latin Quarter. It opens as they confront the challenges of staying warm and paying the rent. These problems are handled with great humor, spontaneity, and clever manipulation of the vocal lines. but dramatic difficulties are found in their romantic relationships. The poet Rodolfo meets Mimi as her candle goes out and she loses her room key. He surreptitiously finds the key, relights the candle and their love is ablaze. Their sweet and gentle love-at-first sight contrasts with the tempestuous affection between the painter Marcello, Rodolfo’s best friend, and the fiery courtesan Musetta. All live moment to moment, celebrating life and friendship at the Café Momus while Marcello and Musetta torment one another by inciting each other’s jealousies and romantic chemistry. Later, Rodolfo laments as his relationship with Mimi takes a tragic turn for the worse.

This highly entertaining Donald Pippin adaptation, currently being performed in Cinnabar Theater's 37th season (the run closes Nov. 21), offers a great opportunity to experience the operatic art form in a slightly abridged and more accessible version. It should appeal to a wide audience, is sung in English, and the story can be followed without the need to read distracting supertitles. The disadvantage of the Pippin adaptation is that the original libretto is more poetic and flowing in the native Italian. The intimate, rustic venue of the Cinnabar Theater offers a realistic location in which the story can unfold, the audience in close proximity to the action, and the musical experience is more personal and direct than in a large opera house.

The updating of the original 1830 ambiance to 1927 is effectively captured in Scott Barringer’s sets, with large reproductions of floor to ceiling posters by Alphonse Mucha, a prominent artist who depicted sensual women in the “Art Nouveau” style. As the stage is two-tiered for each act, the design gives the company ample room to move rapidly in all directions. The colorful costumes have been correspondingly modernized by Wardrobe Mistress Lisa Eldredge, and particularly flamboyant is the multicolored flapper-style outfit worn by Musetta.

The performers are young and energetic, appealing in their portrayals in the lead roles. Particularly convincing is Todd Donovan as Marcello, entrapped in a stormy love affair with the volatile Musetta, hilariously vamped by Julia Hathaway. In calm contrast is the tender romance of Rodolfo and Mimi. Rodolfo’s passion, interpreted by William Hart Meyer, appears more restrained as does that of Leslie Sandefur’s Mimi. Ms. Sandefur’s rich vocal gifts provide the emotional power and delicate sensitivity needed to carry the role, and her upper range was delightful. Schaunard and Colline, humorously sung by Eugene Walden and William O’Neill, respectively, provide the comic relief needed to sustain us as the tragedy unfolds.

The orchestra, capably led by Nina Shuman, sounded surprisingly rich considering it numbered just nine musicians and a pianist. The Philharmonique de Paris performed the score, first heard in Turin in 1896, with rich color and a broad dynamic range. The enthusiastic supporting cast, including child acrobats and chorus, made the Café Momus scene in the second act festive and thoroughly amusing.

Ultimately, this production of “La Bohème” succeeded on many levels. And who has not known characters like these under-funded, romantic artists and intellectuals? Perhaps the “bohemians” might remind us of our years as young college students. However the story might resonate with our past, all will find much to enjoy in this elegant new Cinnabar production.

Critic Bev Kjeldsen contributed to this review