The opera told us we could "wear what you want, say what you want," but I must confess I was kinda worried what would happen if they show bit. Hey, it happens. With so many variable components, even the best opera companies can serve up a loser.
Well, no worries here. Not only is this Boheme utterly charming and dynamic, it's the best production of an Italian opera I've seen at Portland Opera. You see, these "spaghetti operas" are tough to cast. The fact is, guttural German or liquid French can hide a multitude of sins, as can modern music. But there's nothing to hide behind in Italian - you're wide open. And you've got to deliver the vocal goods.
And these singers do - in spades. When the Rodolfo held onto his high C it was like that Bugs Bunny cartoon where the singer holds the note forever. Except this guy didn't turn plaid.
Adding to the experience is the utterly disarming production. The singers all appear convincingly young and capture the frivolity of La Vie Boheme. I found myself grinning for much of the first two acts, except when I was tearing up. And I was especially happy that the Mimi played the role a little slutty. As a grisette, or seamstress, she would have been a woman of questionable reputation. But all too often she's portrayed as a simpering innocent twit. So it's an enormous relief to see this Mimi play the entire range of the character.
My only complaint thus far is that Maestro Allemandi allowed the tenor to take the optional offstage high C at the end of the act. As much as I enjoyed his high notes, I find the choice to be vulgar artistically. You could argue that Mimi and Rodolfo are ecstatic, but the spareness of the orchestra calls for tenderness, with her floating her high note while he harmonizes.
More at the next intermission...