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Sunday, November 12, 2017

5-Star Review: La Bohème at Operamuse

This is the first 5-Star Review! In each 5-Star Review, I list five of my favorite things about a recent or upcoming performance.

In this review, I'll be talking about the opera La Bohème, presented by a group called Operamuse. I saw their performance on Friday night, November 10th, at a lovely home in Bellevue.

A quick plug - if you want to find out lots more about Operamuse, check out Episode 55 of the Singerreise Video Podcast. In that Episode, I interviewed the founder of Operamuse Mike Heitmann.

And now, here are 5 of the things that I enjoyed about last night's performance:

Modernization: The strength of Operamuse is its immediacy to its audience. The opera is condensed down to the size of a living room and performed a mere few feet away from its audience. It is also translated into English and modernized.

Mike Heitmann and his cast made excellent choices with the text and the characters: the character Marcello, for example, is no longer a painter but an app developer, frequently cursing at his non-functional iPhone.

Localization: La Bohème, with its new, modern English text, was also localized to Seattle audiences. Mimì's first aria referred to that long-awaited, glorious moment when the winter's rains stop and the sun peaks out from the clouds. Everyone in the room knew exactly what she was feeling.

Recognizable Seattle landmarks also made it into the text, such as the iconic Space Needle. More endearing to Seattle audiences was the location change from Café Momus to the High Dive bar in Fremont, where, among other things, the local chapter of Opera on Tap frequently performs.

Musetta and Marcello: The pairing of these two was a pleasure. Erin Whitfield was hardly the ordinary Musetta that one is used to seeing on stage, but every bit as fun and well sung. One lucky audience member was treated to her attentions during Musetta's Waltz.

Revere Taylor as Marcello was engaged in every moment. His character was responsive to every action on the stage, whether or not it was directed towards him. He also had some spectacular one-liners.

Mimì: When using a shortened opera score, it can be a challenge to sing a lead role like Mimì, because it has the same amount of music as the regular opera, but none of the downtime for rest. There's no chorus numbers in the second or third act, for example. Sammie Gorham, however, sang strong the entire evening.

Her most powerful moments came in the third act, first discussing broken hearts with an attentive and sympathetic Marcello, and then in the break up scene between her and Rodolfo, played by Ben Cleveland.

Modern English helped the delivery here, too. At that moment, anyone there who had been through a breakup before (meaning, all of us) instantaneously felt what Mimì felt.

My eyes teared up more than once last night. If you know me, that's a pretty huge accomplishment.

The community: The fifth star goes to the community. About 25 people were in attendance - a comfortable number but with room for more - and many were seeing opera for the first time. Most did not routinely encounter classical music at all.

All that were present wore huge smiles - before, during, and after.

The Groupmuse community (of which Operamuse is a part) caters to these smaller groups by stressing the casual, personal interaction. Audience members from all walks of life comingled with the musicians. We all enjoyed each other's company.

So those are my 5 Stars! If this La Bohème sounds like fun to you - you're in luck! There's one more performance, this coming Saturday, November 18th, in Fremont. Check out Operamuse on facebook or at groupmuse.com to reserve your spot.

Kudos to all my friends in the cast for a great performance:

Rodolfo - Ben Cleveland
Musetta - Erin Whitfield
Marcello - Revere Taylor
Colline - Mike Heitmann
Pianist - Greg Smith

Look for more 5-Star reviews at Singerreise's YouTube Channel, on its facebook page, Singerreise.com, and patreon.com/singerreise. Thanks for watching!

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