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Calgary Opera. (Opera in Review: Calgary).

Calgary Opera began its 30-year existence with La Boheme, and it was only natural the company returned to that opera to mark its anniversary. The enthusiastic audience revelled in the beautiful singing, attractive sets (from the Canadian Opera Company) and imaginative stage direction. Stage director Brian Deedrick, now with Edmonton Opera, has had a long association with the Calgary company, but this was his best work to date. Following the spirit of Puccini's stage directions, Deedrick added little touches here and there that made the production come alive. It was a production with a clear, intelligent point of view, one that was impressive for its consistency and high standards.

Several of the singers were new to Calgarians, notably Jennifer Casey Cabot (Mimi) and Andrew Richards (Rodolfo). Both are relatively young, but they had the right voices for their parts. Cabot's voice, a natural lyric, was pure and sweet, but she also had the strength for the big solo and duet passages. Richards, battling slight ill health on opening night, began hesitantly, but after a successful account of his famous Act I aria, he sang with greater confidence, especially in the third act duet, which was striking for its expressive beauty and passion.

Of the other Bohemians, James Westman (Marcello) was easily the strongest, his voice rich and full, his dramatic portrayal effective and convincing. Taras Kulish made the most of Colline, but Curtis Sullivan (Schaunard) lacked the vocal sheen and dramatic presence of the others.

Danielle LeBlanc sang Musetta with rare ferocity, her bitchiness so unrelenting as to make her kindness to Mimi in the final act implausible. Vocally, however, she managed reasonably well. Calgaryborn Daniel Okulitch, still rather young, portrayed the two aging character roles of Benoit and Alcindoro with humor and intelligence.

Conductor Robert Dean had the full measure of the score, his admirable choices of tempi and balance the result of long experience. Avoiding the temptation of overstatement, he nevertheless provided genuine emotional thrills in the big passages, with the orchestra playing cleanly and expressively. Finally, special mention should be made of the chorus and the fine work of chorusmaster Sandra Atkinson. The chorus was musically spot on in Act II and also dramatically convincing in Act III.
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Author:DeLong, Kenneth
Publication:Opera Canada
Article Type:Opera Review
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jun 22, 2002
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