Youth is served in ‘La Boheme’

"La Boheme" is a story of young Bohemians living in mid-19th century Paris. Photo by Ken Howard

Puccini’s beloved “La Boheme” may be an old warhorse in terms of opera, but the revival of Herbert Ross’ production at the Music Center was enlivened by a talented young cast. Ana Maria Martinez as Mimi was solid as both singer and actress. She has a warm, flexible soprano and conveyed the poignancy of the tragic heroine. Impressive was the Rodolfo of Marco Berti, a husky young man who has a strong voice that can easily project to the first balcony and beyond. The other important role, that of Musetta, was sung with sparkle by the attractive soprano, Shelley Jameson.

The story of young Bohemians living in a garret in Paris in the mid-1800s was beautifully captured by the handsome sets of Gerard Howland. It is Christmas Eve and the friends are not only freezing, but starving until their musician buddy arrives with some food and money. Three of them go off to celebrate the holiday in style while Rodolfo stays behind. In a touching scene, he meets Mimi, a poor seamstress and their love affair begins.

The Bohemians are played by the handsome baritone Alfredo Daza as Marcello, bass Stephen Morschek as Colline and baritone Gregorio Gonzalez as Schaunard.The reliable Jamie Offenbach takes on two roles, those of the landlord Benoit and the suitor, Alcindoro.

The cast is a large one and supernumeraries fill the stage during the second act when the five friends meet at the Momus Café. One wonders, however, why a larger portion of the stage was not used to show off the many venders and street performers.

Musetta is alluring in gowns by Peter J. Hall while the other leading members of the cast look suitably impoverished.

No matter how many times one sees “La Boheme,” one is touched by the sad fate of the lovers. The ending is a four-Kleenex affair if ever there was one.

Stanley M. Garner directed the revival, while Lawrence Foster conducted the Los Angeles Opera in his usual capable manner.

Opera’s glamour couple, Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna, will take over the roles of Mimi and Rodolfo on Dec. 10, 14 and 17. Aficionados will not want to miss hearing these stars.