Happy Collaboration In a Joyous 'Bohemios'

Monday, February 26, 2007

With rousing shouts of "Viva la Bohemia!" and happy endings all around, the life of the starving artist never looked rosier than in Saturday night's performance of Amadeo Vives's 1904 zarzuela "Bohemios," co-produced by Opera Theatre of Northern Virginia and Teatro de la Luna.

This was Bohemian life done up in oom-pah-pah olé, a catchy crossbreed of Viennese operetta and Spanish zarzuela. The chilly garret was populated by the same exuberant young artists and charming coquettes as in Puccini's beloved "Boheme," but in this version, dreams did come true. In the finale, aspiring artists Cossette, Rodolfo and Victor all were "discovered" like three Cinderellas at the ball, and together stepped to the footlights to sing about the power of love.

Unfortunately, some of this work's charm was dampened by inconsistent comic timing in the dialogue (and for the non-Spanish-speaking members of the audience, comprehension was hampered by surtitles often not corresponding to the Spanish text). The music needed a deft touch, but lacked rhythmic vitality and clean intonation. Despite vigorous whipping up by conductor John Edward Niles, the ensemble issued no froth.

Among the nine singers, however, there was much to admire. As Rodrigo, Alvaro Rodríguez exuded youthful charm and grace. Pablo Henrich's Victor provided a welcome note of cynicism and the evening's best comic business. Lisa Archibeque sang with lustrous tone, though her bashful characterization of Cossette was muted. Rayanne Gonzales's infectious charm blossomed in her cameo solo "De España vengo" (imported, along with several other numbers, from other zarzuelas).

Also noteworthy at Saturday's performance was its bicultural audience, a rare and heartening occurrence for concertgoers. The house was full, enthusiastic and predominantly Spanish-speaking. This was the first partnership between Niles's Opera Theatre of Northern Virginia and stage director Mario Marcel's Teatro de la Luna. Here's to such artistic and cultural interaction being nurtured.

-- Sarah Hoover

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