Tuesday, October 19, 2021

SEATTLE OPERA LA BOHEME October 16, 2021 Performance (Opening Night) Eclectic Arts

Seattle Opera

McCaw Hall
Seattle, WA

October 16, 2021

RODOLFO: Yosep Kang. MIMÌ: Karen Vuong.
Photo credit: Sunny Martini

It’s hard to put into words the feeling of being back at the Seattle Opera at McCaw Hall this past Saturday evening. Collectively there was a very understandable electricity in the air as patrons, musicians, artisans, and performers alike anxiously awaited the triumphant return to the live in-person stage of the Seattle Opera.

Who knew that in January of 2020 as the cast was taking their final bows from the production of “Eugene Onegin” that this would be the last in-person performance for twenty months and some change.

Traveling down to the event was much like returning to a favorite vacation spot. Some things had changed along the way (for better or worse) while familiar landmarks stood out even more so than previously.

Of course COVID-19 protocols were in place for those not on the stage. Vaccination status/negative tests before entry, masks at all times, drinks only in certain areas (none were allowed in the hall itself), no press room, etc. None of this really mattered to those in attendance. What mattered was that the Seattle Opera was back and the new season was about to begin at McCaw Hall, not at the respective homes of the patrons in front of a television set or computer.

“La Boheme” was a solid choice to welcome back the old guard and the unfamiliar first time opera goer. Its simplistic love story was easy to digest and of course Puccinni’s music has become one of the most beloved for decades.

MUSETTA: Ginger Costa-Jackson. MARCELLO: John Moore.
Photo credit: Sunny Martini

The cast on Saturday evening lived up to the mission of the Seattle Opera recognizing the lands of the indiginous tribes and the inclusion of all people from all races. They have been putting a focus on this well before the pandemic and the societal movement from 2020. Seeing Asian leads as well as other races in the cast really created an opera production for 2021. It was a pleasure to see.

Having never seen any other version of “La Boheme”, I left the performance feeling that the production was good but not necessarily great. It’s difficult to not let the emotional aspect impact my review but if I had witnessed this performance pre-pandemic, I would have said the same thing.

Having said that, I do have to say Ginger Costa-Jackson is a marvel and she always commands the stage when she is on it - regardless of the role. She is a treasure and a talent of infinite possibilities.

There were other familiar faces in the cast which brought emotional memories back as the show unfolded. This actually happened throughout the performance for this reviewer. It was so good to be back at the Seattle Opera.

My one observation that I do want to note was the lighting design work in Act II, specifically the last scenes (15 minutes or so). I really felt a dramatic turn of the lighting could have added so much more emotional impact to the storyline and performances. Instead it stayed one note for the most part which I found peculiar. Typically, the lighting has been stellar at all of the Seattle Opera performances I’ve attended. But Saturday night this portion, at least, was lacking. Perhaps it was budget or just a bit of rust from the long layoff. In any event, it was something I noticed in a small way.

Overall, “La Boheme” was a good production but the other intangibles of the night made it almost a great production.

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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