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MONTREAL.

L'Opera de Montreal's production of La boheme (seen May 25) was set somewhere in between the conventional late 19th century and some undefined more-recent period. The vagueness was slightly disconcerting, though OdeM's sets and costumes were credible, except for an unfortunate headpiece that Mimi wore for much of the opera. This was meant to replace the usual bonnet Rodolfo buys for Mimi in Act II. As Mimi, Marianne Fiset was the star of the show, thanks to a beautiful timbre, a well-placed voice and an easy legato. Her dramatic intensity made the character convincing and moving. By contrast, Antoine Belanger's vocally insecure and gauchely acted Rodolfo was the weak link. The chemistry between Fiset and Belanger was hard to detect, though part of the blame goes to director Alain Gauthier's handling of the interaction between the two leads. The initial spark between them seemed contrived, and they did not so much as bother to kneel to the floor to search for Mimi's lost key.

Lara Ciekiewicz did justice to Musetta, both vocally and dramatically. Her supple soprano gave Musetta's signature "Quando me n'vo" the required spark. Etienne Dupuis' Marcello was the brightest star among the quartet of young men sharing the small garret. The amorous tension between Marcello and Musetta was evident, but not overdone. Though dramatically convincing, Roy del Valle did not sufficiently tone down his large baritone voice in the character roles of Benoit and Alcindoro. The usually grand finale of Act II was underwhelming, due to the number of characters on stage. There were too few children in Perpignols parade, requiring parents and Cafe Momus staff to augment it.

With three solid performers, the Act III quartet was vocally brilliant and dramatically moving. It was perhaps the highlight of the performance, thanks to the successful blending of the voices and the contrasting emotions portrayed by the singers. Alexandre Sylvestre was more than adequate as Colline, though his "Vecchia zimarra" was not quite convincing. Perhaps this was because Gauthier thought Colline did not want to part with his coat, or perhaps it was just poorly staged. Unfortunately, the Orchestre Metropolitain sounded drab under Italian conductor Giuseppe Pietraroia.

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The luminosity of Lara Ciekiewicz's portrayal of Musetta in Act IV of the opera gave the right balance to the ailing Mi mi in the final scene. Fiset underplayed the death scene, thus stressing the fragility of the young woman. One looks forward to hearing more from both sopranos.
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Author:Naggar, Ossama el
Publication:Opera Canada
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Sep 22, 2011
Words:410
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