Somehow, though now over two hundred years old, it maintains a certain freshness. Even a standard production like this 2006 David McVicar classic which this season sees its sixth revival run at the Royal Opera, still feels relevant.
The main factor that makes or breaks a production of La bohème is the cast. The six lead characters must have comedic timing, dramatic chops, and believable chemistry. This opera is so popular precisely because all the characters are realistic and likeable.
If you're looking for a theatrical farce that will leave you with a lot of questions about the human condition, then look no further than Des Moines Metro Opera's charming production of Candide.
Jonathan Knipscher designed glorious costumes across the board - Merlin's sequined suit, sequined tracksuit, sequined capes for the mermaids… Basically a lot of sequins that were complemented by shimmery curtains designed by Julia Noulin-Mérat.
One may ask oneself if the hyper-tonal, rather simplistic harmonic and melodic language of the source is perhaps too accessible for opera, but in my case I am not so certain it could have been done any other way.
It’s a truly original idea. Two performers (a mezzo soprano and baritone,) portraying two sides of the same coin: a transgender character named Hannah. Born a boy and dressed like a boy in sneakers and a letterman jacket, Hannah (in the baritone phase of their life) secretly wears a blouse underneath because “it feels so right,” as they deliver their newspapers on a paper route.
But even with the small missteps, Odyssey Opera once again hit a home run. La Belle Hélène is that rare Offenbach operetta that doesn’t necessarily run like a clockwork mouse in terms of efficiency, but with the right cast it can still prove to be a fun, lighthearted evening at the opera.
As messy as the plot of Orlando is, this approach worked for this opera just as well as it has in previous seasons, and the result was rather a joy to watch that it became rather easy to turn the brain off and just enjoy the opera as it is.
Opera composers who write their own libretti are rare and with good reason. Musicians train in the land of notes and chords but structuring a good piece of theatre requires a different skill set. In the case of The Impossible She, presented by Rhymes with Opera (as part of the New York Opera Fest) composer Daniel Thomas Davis should have stuck with what he does best.
It is an increasingly rare occasion to feel moved in the way I was watching this performance when I go to the opera now. Perhaps I'm spoiled; too much of a good thing, and all that.