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Volume 68, Issue 45, Monday, October 28, 2002

Arts & Entertainment

Classy ‘La Bohémei revels at the HGO

By Chris Brunt
The Daily Cougar

There are those who think Houston lacks grandeur. They might make references to cowboy boots, barbecue, pick-up trucks or some other facet of our classic cowboy culture. These pessimists fail to appreciate outlaw chic. They must also have missed the opening performance of the Houston Grand Opera, "grand" being the pivotal word.

HGO began its 48th season Friday evening with Giacomo Pucciniis hugely famous La Boheme, which will run until Nov. 16.

Visitors from other, allegedly more cultured regions of the nation would likely have felt at home in our gorgeous Wortham Theatre, the lobby filled with men in Armani tuxedos and women in Valentino gowns.

The performance itself was world-class. La Boheme, since its 1896 debut, remains one of the worldis most beloved works of art, invariably a staple in opera repertoire. Whether they know it or not, even those who skirt opera are familiar with Pucciniis elegant arias, which have been featured in many cross-cultural adaptations in the worlds of Broadway, pop music and cinema.

In the HGOis production of La Bohéme, Puerto Ricois Ana Maria Martinez, who plays the dying Mimi, gracefully casts her beautiful soprano voice over the audience. The play runs until Nov. 16.
Tom Specht/ Houston Grand Opera

HGO, in conjunction with the Glimmerglass Opera and the New York City Opera, handled the material with classic taste and refined technique — sheer excellence on all fronts. The staging, designed by production director James Robinson, was inventive and consistently clever. He succeeded in handling La Bohemeis difficult dynamic throughout, emphasizing both the tragic and comic elements that Puccini and librettist Giuseppe Giacosa ambitiously wrote into the opera.

Popular Puerto-Rican soprano Ana Maria Martinez performed the central role of Mimi with staggering grace. She is truly a virtuoso, displaying gorgeous lyric phrasing and a marvelous balance of strength and finesse in the upper register. She is also a very fine actress, — a crucial characteristic when portraying the dying Mimi. Her rendition of "Mi Chiamo" moved some to tears.

Italian tenor Roberto Aronica was equally compelling as the love-sick poet Rodolfo. His duets with Mimi in Acts I and IV were stunning. This may be the first performance of La Boheme in which Rodolfo has a prettier voice than Mimi. Martinez is sublime, but Aronica has proven his position as one of the most celebrated tenors in the operatic world.

This opera is essentially a story of ideals. The four artists, Rodolfo, Marcello, Colline and Schaunard have nothing save their passion for art, love and each other. 

While they are freezing to death, they rejoice in brilliantly funny quartets whenever food, wine or women enter their bohemian circle. They sacrifice everything they have in the name of love. Itis impossible to imagine a more compelling illustration of this than Rodolfois sacrifice: leaving Mimi because he believes his poverty is worsening her poor health.

Through some of the most beautiful music ever composed, Puccini tells us nothing can conquer those who value love over all things ... not even death.

For tickets, go to or call 713-228-OPERA. Ask about the availability of student rush tickets, where students can purchase tickets as low as $10.

La Bohéme

Houston Grand Opera
Wortham Theater
510 Preston St.

the verdict: Boys, this is your chance. Take her to see this, cry when she cries and sheill love you forever.

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