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Musetta smolders for Pro Musica’s opera week!

By Gregory R. Gunter

Making opera more accessible to broader audiences proves the goal of many contemporary production companies. Indeed, the upcoming 2013 film version of Puccini’s 1830’s-era La Bohėme sets the stage in gritty Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with our heroine Mimi—originally an embroiderer—now an artist and part-time bartender. MTV-era viewers will undoubtedly better relate now to our starving artists.

It was little surprise, then, that Pro Musica choose a similar course with stage director Roberto Duarte in updating the set and costumes for an entertaining weekend of La Bohėme. Our favorite Latin Quarter bohemians donned hat-and-color-coordinated clown-style costumes and an ultra contemporary set for an update that allowed opera attendees the chance to exercise their visual imaginations.

No imaginations were required for the voices, however. San Miguel’s favorite opera tenor, Rodrigo Garciarroyo returned as—who else?—our hero Rodolfo, enthralling listeners with his rich voice, and the ladies with his mirthful eyes and ringlet halo. Close examination of the production notes revealed that Rodrigo also served as the production’s artistic director.

Pro Musica Director and La Bohėme producer Michael Pearl also scored a coup, landing Verónica Alexanderson as Mimi, the consumptive heroine who musters the strength to finish her deathbed aria while almost horizontal. Veronica proved up to the role, naturally, having previously performed alongside Placido Domingo.

Oh, but your author—and much of the male choir, who literally wore their (on-stage) hearts on their sleeves—fell for the enchantress Musetta, who smoldered onstage. Liene Camarena—hailing from Mexico City, her Musetta could put the ‘sauce’ in ‘hot sauce’—boasts a number of competitive awards, but her on-stage saunter easily matched her voice.

Guillermo Ruíz—envision a Mexican James Earl Jones—Enrique Ángeles, Edgar Gill, and Alejandro Camarena rounded out the cast. La Bohėme’s Act 2, as usual, proved the raucous highlight of the four-act opera, with highlights from San Miguel’s adult and children’s choir adding 41 on-stage voices to the lively scene. But for wide-reaching opera fans, the three-hour performance was only part of Pro Musica’s event roster for the week.

On Saturday, Pro Musica raised funds to expand their Rhythm, Rhyme & Reason educational outreach program with a gala dinner. After cocktail mingling and a sit-down dinner, Tim Hazell directed the delightful kids of Los Ricos school in an eclectic—and truly entertaining—performance of rhythm, followed by individual arias from the La Bohėme opera cast and an astonishing piano solo by music director Mario Alberto Hernández.  And the closing evening’s cast party at the Biblioteca’s Café Santa Ana hosted La Bohėme performers up close and personal.

Pro Musica’s season continues—alas, without our Musetta—so be sure to visit for the balance of the season’s performances. The upcoming Vivaldi The Four Seasons should prove spectacular!


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