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Arts and Entertainment

Opera per Tutti presents "La Boheme" at Cleveland's Saint Ignatius High School.
Collaboration is the keynote in reviving opera in Northeast Ohio

Vivian Goodman
Rodolfo, played by tenor Gary del Rosario, comforts Mimi, played by Soprano Andrea Anelli, in her final moments.
Courtesy of Valerie Brown | 89.7 WKSU
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In The Region:

A task force recommends that for Northeast Ohio in today’s economy, opera should be less…grand, and more collaborative.  A co-production this weekend of La Boheme on a high school campus takes those cues.

Artists making do

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Late Sunday night at St. Ignatius High School’s Breen Center for the Performing Arts  the  entire  cast is assembled, and props, like logs for the pot-bellied stove, fall into place, to set the scene.  Cold, hungry painters, poets, and musicians, huddle for warmth,  sharing what little they have.

Puccini’s La Boheme was first heard in 1896 in Turin, Italy, with Arturo Toscanini conducting.  It tells the story of young bohemians in Paris’s Latin Quarter in the 1840s. 

 Rodolfo, a writer, burns his latest manuscript to stoke the fire in the garret he and his artist buddies share.  He invites Mimi, the starving seamstress next door, to warm her frozen hands by the fire. 

Rodolfo and Mimi exchange their stories. They  fall in love. 

But before Mimi dies of consumption,  there’s  a lot of work to do. 


Artists working together in a poor economy
This is the first collaboration between Opera per Tutti and Blue Water Chamber Orchestra . The small opera company’s been in the region since 2008 but it’s only the second season for Carlton Woods’ new orchestra. 


Opera per Tutti’s  director Andrea Annelli hopes  to fill all 540 seats of the Hummer Theater in St. Ignatius’s new Breen Hall for this weekend’s performances. "It's the first time that opera's being presented at the Breen Center. They're very excited about it as are we. It’s a first-time collaboration with the Blue Water Chamber Orchestra which is quite a new professional orchestra in the area. All those things, the collaborations, are going to work out very well."    

Annelli, who also plays the role of Mimi, notes with satisfaction that her company is already doing what a task force of local and national opera experts recommends.

 Led by Opera America’s Marc Scorca, the task force told the now-silent and broke Opera Cleveland that to stage a comeback next season, it has to think small. " That they need to do smaller productions in smaller venues with collaborations. And so, I thought we've been doing that for four and a half years and so I think we're on to something here and I'm very excited about that and encouraged."   

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La Boheme is a good bet for Opera per Tutti. The story is familiar, popularized by the long-running Broadway adaptation, “Rent”.  It’s also the world’s fourth most frequently-performed opera.

Opera per Tutti’s budget is a frayed shoestring compared to the 2.4 million dollar budget Opera Cleveland had last year, but on the strength of its partnership with  the high school and the new orchestra,  at least the tiny troupe is performing.

The production is semi-staged and singers will be in costume.

Andrea Annelli notes that what she and her colleagues are doing has a parallel in the opera’s story of artists coping with poverty. “It's definitely a story about making do and also about sacrifices that people make. But one thing about it is that despite their circumstances they find ways of having fun, loving relationships along the way and I think that that's something amazing about human beings. Presuming you're not starving to death you find community and you find ways of making a life, the best of it under the circumstance that you can.” 

She says Giacomo Puccini understood poverty .”He was not born into wealth . I think he could really relate to this lifestyle and write about it realistically in terms of his day and age and it certainly, as ‘Rent’ shows,  it carries over into really any time period where young people are trying to make their way without too much money." 

The Met is putting on La Boheme  in New York next month with ticket prices as high as $350.  This  weekend at St. Ignatius, tickets are $25.

Related Links & Resources
Breen Center for the Performing Arts

Blue Water Chamber Orchestra website

Opera per Tutti website

Related WKSU Stories

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ohio Light Opera continues to evolve in Wooster
Thursday, June 24, 2010

Another fully staged Mozart opera at Severance Hall
Monday, March 1, 2010

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