La Bohème at the Asheville Lyric Opera – GO SEE IT!

The Asheville Lyric Opera Presents La Bohème

This weekend, the Asheville Lyric Opera is offering us something special in their second ever performance of the classic opera, La Bohème.La Bohème is a beautifully interwoven series of character sketches about four young people that follows the arts and the whims of cupid across a background of 1830’s Paris at it’s liveliest.

And while it is not strictly speaking a true drama but rather a flowing train of consciousness through these peoples’ lives set to some truly fine music by Giacomo Puccini [1858-1924] it is none the less breathtaking and easily followed.

The opera itself is largely drawn from the Scenes de la Vie Boheme, a book by Henry Merger [1822-1861] which was itself a series of largely autobiographical cameo vignettes without any real literary sequence. That makes both the book and the opera somewhat unusual from the first. When you add that there was a good deal of liberties taken over the years by stagers and librettists (Mimi’s muff originally belonged to Merger’s Francine for instance), it is interesting that this opera ever came into existence in a final, highly polished form. Far from any sense of authenticity, as is often misnoted, it is this intriguing distillation from multiple sources that makes the story noteworthy. Only a few of the stories are even vaguely true according to Merger himself and also according to the real life Schaunard, one Alexandre Schanne who wrote his own book of Bohemian memoirs under the title, Souvenirs de Schaunard. And next to none of it was based off the life of one G. Puccini as one popular myth suggests.

But both book and opera do catch the overall flavor and flow of the people and the period very well indeed. The opera perhaps even more so in that in addition to the experiences of the principals, there is the enriching flow of the colors, backgrounds, and especially the music of the times.

There is no one who will argue that Puccini’s La Bohème is not the definitive statement on the theme, either. It is packed full of many of Puccini’s famous arias, and some of his best music. That alone makes it worth the ticket price.

Interestingly enough, this production will also see something of an operatic reunion. The ALO’s Principal Guest Conductor, Robert Hart Baker, will meet again with Jason Baldwin who made a small-role appearance in the millennial debut production of La Bohème. In this offing, Baldwin will be singing the tenor lead as Rudolfo, as Maestro Baker returns to the podium.

Maestro Robert Hart Baker, acting Principal Guest Conductor for ALO, has returned to his Asheville stomping grounds from his new home in York, PA in order to aid his own incredible flair to this performance. (Welcome back, Maestro!)

In addition to his position with ALO, he is Music Director of the Harrisburg Choral Society, conductor of the York (PA) Symphony Orchestra, and the St. Louis (MO) Philharmonic Orchestra.

This version of Bohème will be directed by David Toulson, an ALO veteran and acclaimed opera director who has received many kudos for his works within the LA Opera, Washington National Opera, Tulsa Opera, and Central City Opera.

David Craig Starkey, Artistic and General Director of ALO, had this to say about this weekend’s performance. “Our La Bohème will be traditional in a lot of ways, yes, but it will also have elements that are contemporary. Take our cozy hall, for instance. This hall will create a uniquely intimate quality that will make our production different from others already. This is our interpretation, our specially-designed set—a set that no one has seen before. All that combined, it will be a performance that no one has seen before—a show completely unique to Asheville. We’re so excited to share it with the community!”

Ticket sales for this performance will begin at $16 and I suggest you call soon as a show insider assures me this is going to be a sold out house.

To purchase YOUR tickets, call the Diana Wortham Theatre Box Office at 828-257-4530, or visit their spiffy site at

I’ll be there and I hope to see you there!

Cast (as released on official website):

Jason Baldwin as Rudolpho

Angela Amidei (leading opera singer in Denver, CO, and Rome, Italy) as Mimì,

Christina Villaverde (of Florida Grand Opera, and Opera Nova in Costa Rica) as Musetta.

Dominic Aquilino as Marcello

Ardean Landhuis as Colline

Brent Davis as Schaunard.

(pictures to follow)

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