The New, Improved Amore Opera

After a rocky 2014-2015 season, the company is back on track in a new home.

Over the weekends before and after Christmas, I played in a run of Puccini’s great La Boheme. It was a pleasure to be in the new Sheen Center for Thought and Culture, on Bleecker Street in Manhattan. The hall improved on all the things that were unsatisfactory about the Connelley Theater on East 4th Street. It’s attractive, well-run and a little closer in. The only downside seems to be the lack of wings stage-left.

Jason Tramm led these performances, with a set of four rotating casts. This time, all the singers were really great, particularly the crew we heard New Year’s Day. Rodolfo and Mimi were pitch perfect together.

The New Year’s Eve performance (one I didn’t play in) was broadcast live on the web, and for now there’s an archived video of it here. The cameras were turned on way in advance, and stayed on through the intermissions; Act One begins somewhere around the 26:00 mark. You’ll need to skip over the blank sections. But check it out — the two principals nail it at around 57:00.

The orchestra sounded great (since I wasn’t there I can be objective), though there was some unnecessary chaos as Act IV wound down. We had a lot of that, but with a rotating cast of singers and instrumentalists it’s proven hard to avoid.

One of the things I appreciate is how the final scenes play out. Yes, Mimi’s death is perhaps slightly prolonged, and despite being a near-goner from consumption she manages to pull out yet another strain of the aria.

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But notice the drama at 3:28:16. The sforzando minor chord in the horns signals that Mimi has died, and the audience knows it. But the characters on stage don’t. Gradually one after another of them discovers the truth, until finally Rodolfo realizes what’s happening. The full brass section hits the fateful minor chords, and in less than a minute the curtain comes down. A great tragedy.

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