Gulfshore Opera, Southwest Florida’s professional touring opera company, presents “La Boheme” March 13 at the Charlotte Performing Arts Center and March 18 at the Barbara B Mann Performing Arts Hall.
For this new production, Gulfshore Opera wanted to present a fresh new look at this most famous of Puccini’s operas. General Director, Steffanie Pearce explains, “I was looking for a poster image when I came across Van Gogh’s ‘Cafe Terrace at Night.” The painting sparked a vision of the characters in the opera living upstairs from that cafe and coming down to hang out there, just like Van Gogh and the Paris Impressionists would have.” A vibrant young creative team from across the United States have been collaborating since October to bring this original design production of Puccini’s most loved grand opera to Southwest Florida.
Stage director, Josh Shaw is named as one of Musical America’s Top 30 Innovators in Classical Music. Shaw has directed over 75 productions at companies across the USA and is also the Executive and Artistic Director of Pacific Opera Project.
In describing this new production, director Josh Shaw explains, “‘La Boheme’ is a timeless story with themes as relevant today, as they were in the original setting. In the late 1880s Paris was filled with a concentration of larger than life artistic characters — Van Gogh, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec, and others. In our production, we are imagining our bohemian lovers as moving in the same circles as the great impressionist artists who rebelled against classical subject matter and embraced modernity, creating works that reflected the world in which they lived. The colorful style of Van Gogh offers a vibrant canvas on which to paint Puccini’s masterpiece in a heightened, but believable setting.”
Set designer Ardean Landhuis, video projections and lighting designer Tlaloc Lopez-Waterman and costume designers Steffanie Pearce and Amanda McGee are using Van Gogh and other great impressionists as muses for their design concepts. Van Gogh’s “Cafe Terrace at Night” (1888) actually comes to life in act 2 when the painting is rendered into the three dimensional set of the Cafe Momus in the Latin-Quarter of Paris on Christmas Eve. The use of Van Gogh’s dynamic colors carry through the design concept, providing a vivid, artist’s view of the bohemians lifestyle in Paris near the turn of the century.
Maestro Greg Ritchey will conduct a 30-piece orchestra, with a cast of nationally renowned singers. Soprano Sarah Tucker and tenor Peter Lake perform the naïve lovers Mimì and Rodolfo.
Tucker is fresh off a debut with the San Diego Opera, having previously performed at San Francisco Opera, Dallas Opera, Santa Fe Opera and being a national semifinalist for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
Lake sang the role of Pinkerton in the acclaimed Japanese/English production of “Madame Butterfly” with the Pacific Opera Project and Opera in the Heights, directed by Josh Shaw. He has performed with the Savannah Voice Festival and Natchez Festival.
Playing the hot and cold lovers Musetta and Marcello are Chelsea Lehnea and Neil Nelson. Lehnea recently made debuts with the Merola Opera Program at San Francisco Opera and Washington National Opera.
Nelson, a finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, has performed with Opera Theatre St. Louis, Palm Beach Opera and the South Florida Symphony.
The Bohemians central characters also include Coline Ramsey as Colline, and Mitchell Hutchings as Schaunard.
Ramsey has performed with the likes of Santa Fe Opera, Seattle Opera, and Sarasota Opera. He returns to Gulfshore Opera after having performed in the St. Matthew Passion in season two.
Hutchings, on faculty at Florida Atlantic University, has performed with Opera Saratoga, Des Moines Metro Opera and Pensacola Opera.
Baritone Andrew Hiers, performs the roles of Benoit the landlord and Alcindoro the councilor of state.
Hiers has performed with Opera Colorado and San Francisco Opera.