I guess when it comes to opera, I’m more of a purist than I thought.
The semi-staging of La Boheme by the WV Symphony was well sung, but to my taste, not well presented.
I have a degree in theatre and I’ve sung or worked on about 20 operas. I see opera as the ultimate theatrical production, using all the arts: vocal and instrumental music, drama, art, dance (although the ballets are now more often omitted either in composition or performance).
I have no philosophical problem with resetting the work in another era, and welcome the occasional “rehearsal” attire and/or minimal set and props.
Soprano Barbara Shirvis sang the role of Mimi, the seamtress dying of consumption.
While I did have some problems with the costuming (I didn’t care for the jeans, and I recognized some attire of chorus friends), the minimal set and props didn’t bother me at all.
What did bother me was the distraction of the orchestra on stage. Opera is all about the vocal music and on-stage drama. I know; some of the drama is a little hard to swallow. I mean, who admits to everlasting love ten minutes after meeting?
Boheme is filled with many small, private moments between the loving couples and soliloquies. You simply can’t have that with a full orchestra on stage behind them.
Dramatic tenor Jeffrey Springer sang the role of the writer Rodolfo, in love with Mimi.
I know that Puccini’s music is lush and enticing, but the orchestra over-shadowed the vocalists in many of the climaxes, and was not in sync with the singers in others.
The singer should be free to express the music at his or her pace during a performance. I know there were monitors, but certainly the vocalists could not have felt like they were in control of tempi or expression. An orchestra in the pit allows the conductor to face the singer, and therefore provide proper accompaniment.