Orange County may be opera county again if this keeps up.
The Pacific Symphony's three-night performance of Puccini's "La Bohème," the Italian opera classic, this time under the direction of A. Scott Parry, was met with strong ticket sales and enthusiastic audiences.
And one more enthusiastic review.
The production in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall was the first part of the Costa Mesa-based orchestra's "Symphonic Voices," a three-year initiative to bring back opera to the county someway, somehow, after the Opera Pacific shuttered in 2008. The opera-vocal initiative is being led by longtime Pacific Symphony conductor Carl St.Clair, who's also an opera veteran after having done many of them in Europe.
The Pacific Symphony's "La Bohème" was "semi-staged," partially meaning no full sets and minimal props. Some lighting and video effects by Barry Steele helped give the illusion of sets, though, with projected backdrops that included Christmastime snow and Parisian architecture. Costumes were modern and seemingly budget-friendly.
Also significant is this initiative's effort to put the orchestra center stage. That meant getting the Pacific Symphony out of the pit and into full view.
Indeed, they were in such prominence, dressed in standard pit orchestra attire (blacks) and surrounded by a half-circle of black drapes.
Then came the singers: David Lomelí (tenor) as Rodolfo, Maija Kovalevska (soprano) as Mimi, Hyung Yun (baritone) as Marcello, Georgia Jarman (soprano) as Musetta, Jeremy Kelly (baritone) as Schaunard, Denis Sedov (bass) as Colline, Thomas Hammons (bass) as Benoit/Alcindoro and Nicholas Preston (tenor) as Parpignol.
These talented folks, each with star-studded résumés, were backed by the Pacific Chorale and Southern California Children's Chorus for certain scenes.
All seemed happy to be onstage. I would be too, if I were them, to have an ultra-competitive job in an expensive art form within a tough recession.
Particular plaudits go out to Yun, whose superb acting and voice lent some audience-friendly fun to the audience-friendly opera. Kovalevska earns her own ovation too, having shined from her first entrance to her last.
The symphony sounded stellar as well. It was wonderful to hear them so prominently, with the subtleties and color of Puccini's orchestration so crystal clear.
But perhaps the most striking to me was how well the production came off without some of those budget-busting aspects — monumental sets, fancy costumes and the like. It was boiled down to its essentials: singers, conductor, orchestra.
Bravo to all three.
BRADLEY ZINT is a copy editor for the Daily Pilot and a classically trained musician. Email him story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @BradleyZint.