La Bohème, Los Angeles, December 2004
Alagna and Gheorghiu with Placido Domingo after La Bohème, 10.12.2004
Photo © Lullalit Supatravanij

Stars help 'Bohème' raise its game, Los Angeles Times, 13 December 2004
Their Mastery Was No Surprise, But Their Freshness Was, Los Angeles Daily News, 14 December 2004
Los Angeles Opera's revival of La Bohème, Los Angeles City Beat, 23 December 2004

Stars help 'Bohème' raise its game
Richard S. Ginell, Los Angeles Times, 13 December 2004

Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna provide chemistry as well as
world-class voices.

Some new, glamorous-looking bohemians turned up in Los Angeles
Opera's ongoing run of Puccini's "La Bohème" at the Dorothy Chandler
Pavilion on Friday night.

It was as if the long-suffering landlord Benoit had finally managed
to evict some of the residents of that cramped Latin Quarter garret,
replacing them with a few who definitely looked capable of paying the
rent. And if rent could be calculated in musical currency, yes
indeed, soprano Angela Gheorghiu and tenor Roberto Alagna delivered.
The couple, married in real life, lifted a performance far above the
routine offered by the opening night's ensemble cast last month.

While the well-built "Bohème" usually comes off acceptably with a
young ensemble of equals, it jumps to another level when world-class
singers get hold of the leading roles. That was demonstrated
especially by the opulent-voiced Gheorghiu, who thoroughly inhabited
Mimì in an emotionally convincing, multifaceted way that you don't
hear or see very often.

What a difference it made to hear the back-to-back hit Act 1 arias
really sung this time, Alagna caressing "Che gelida manina" with
ardent, languorous warmth and Gheorghiu drawing emotional blood
from "Mi chiamano Mimì." Even after many "Bohèmes" together, the
couple still manage to make their portrayals of Mimì and Rodolfo seem
relatively fresh, with unfeigned, affectionate chemistry and natural-
sounding give-and-take in their exchanges.

There was also a different conductor Friday, Emmanuel Villaume,
leading his second performance of the run. He carefully indulged his
stars' every lingering, sometimes dangerously drawn-out phrase,
turning on the gushing sentiment where his predecessor, Lawrence
Foster, had been more straightforward.

A new, loud Musetta, Georgian soprano Eteri Lamoris, went a bit over
the top vamping "Musetta's Waltz" at a shapeless crawling pace. Bass-
baritone Daniel Sumegi made an imposing if slightly shaky-voiced new

Overall, the presence of star power  plus the jelling experience of
several previous performances  seemed to invigorate the production.
Even the onstage brass band in Act 2 had more sass and vigor.

'Their Mastery Was No Surprise, But Their Freshness Was'
David Mermelstein, Los Angeles Daily News, 14 December 2004

Puccini: La Bohème
Gheorghiu, Lamoris, Alagna, Daza, Sumegi, González, J. Offenbach
Los Angeles Opera Orchestra and Chorus
Villaume, H. Ross/Garner
10 December 2004 - Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles

To those who might contest the power of artists to transform the mundane into the sublime, we present Exhibit A: tenor Roberto Alagna and soprano Angela Gheorghiu's recent arrival in Herbert Ross's production of La Bohème, currently at the Los Angeles Opera.

Performances of Puccini's classic tearjerker of love found and lost too often range from the routine to the uninvolved. But not with Alagna and Gheorghiu, gifted operatic superstars as physically handsome as they are vocally ravishing. In real life, they are also husband and wife, a not incidental bonus when it comes to playing star-crossed lovers and the like.

On Friday night, they assumed the leads  Rodolfo, a starving poet, and Mimì, a seamstress  in Ross's attractive and sensible staging (now directed by Stanley M. Garner). Gheorghiu makes her company debut in this production, and Alagna might as well be  his previous appearance a disappointing program of operatic excerpts.

The couple's claims on Mimì and Rodolfo are longstanding, so their mastery was no surprise, but their freshness was. Even in Mimì's climactic death scene, there was a sense of spontaneity, with Alagna producing devastating sobs. They also added their own bits of stage business, enriching the production. And though the tenor's unassisted cartwheel in Act IV smacked of showboating, it lent veracity to his portrayal.

And for the singing itself, Gheorghiu's rich and complex voice, which occasionally recalls Maria Callas's, is the more technically reliable. But her husband's mellifluous sound possesses warmth and some ringing high notes. Both are superb actors, he especially in comedy, making the pair among the most winning singers today.

Georgian soprano Eteri Lamoris, as the coquettish Musetta, was also new to the production. More significant, Emmanuel Villaume succeeded Lawrence Foster in the pit, conducting the orchestra as though he'd just discovered Puccini's score, lending it color and fizz.

Many not convinced of opera's appeal have legitimately wondered what they've been missing. The answer can be found at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for two more days, where star power has rarely been more eloquently expressed.

Los Angeles Opera's revival of La Bohème
Donna Perlmutter, Los Angeles City Beat, Issue Number 81 - 23 December 2004

[...] No need for closed eyes at Los Angeles Opera's revival of La Bohème. With the headline-stealing married duo Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu making good on their celebrity  that is, raising the level of artistry beyond what you can ordinarily witness  magic filled the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The Romanian soprano made a more rambunctious than reticent Mimi, but her sense of theater and fabulous voice  a soaring instrument outfitted with the kind of technique that maximizes everything from soft legato singing to gorgeous outpourings  did it all. The French-Sicilian tenor calibrated his boyish Rodolfo to fit her portrait and sang best at mid-range in the sweetest, most luscious tones. But he also carried off the spun-out amorous duet endings of acts one and three; he showed strain and went sharp only on forced high notes, like the precarious C in "Che gelida manina." Their final love scene, where she climbed off the chaise longue and into his arms as they sat on the stairs, was one of those Alagna/Gheorghiu moments: off the menu. Yet the whole cast, including Alfredo Daza, Eteri Lamoris, Daniel Sumegi, and Gregorio Gonzalez, could have benefitted from more forward propulsion than conductor Emmanuel Villaume afforded them. [...]


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