Opera Santa Barbara brought Puccini’s perennial audience favorite La bohème to the Granada stage on Friday, November 9, in a gorgeous and beautifully sung production featuring some of the most exciting performances we’ve seen from the company. Nathan Granner’s electrifying Rodolfo occupied the center of the show’s Parisian universe, with Eleni Calenos as his romantic partner and lyrical muse Mimì.
Act One takes place in a single room on the top floor of a cold apartment building, but the story travels a long way within the confines of that small space. From the opening bit of self-referential comedy with the playwright’s pages going up in smoke to the rollicking business of bamboozling the landlord Benoît, the happy band of Bohemians showed themselves capable of maintaining their high-spirited charm even when hungry. From there, the plot moves to the wrenching eternity of young love as Mimì enters clutching her candle and calling for a light. It’s a perfectly balanced sequence, with all the colors and emotions of young life in the city concentrated to a brilliant point.
Act Two offered a splendid opportunity for Musetta (Elle Valera) and Marcello (Luis Alejandro Orozco) to surf the cresting waves of choral magic woven by the composer in and around the Café Momus. The dazzling set and costumes gave this festive procession an extra spark of life, and the whole act was expertly choreographed for maximum impact. Acts Three and Four built on this solid foundation with even more vocal fireworks. The quartet involving the two couples was particularly memorable, and by the end, there was no escaping the sense that true love, while tragically endangered, will always thrive wherever young people gather in the city.