Puccini’s La bohème premiered at PCC this spring, an opera ranked in the top ten best operas of all time. “It’s simply a wonderful work to perform,” said Fine Arts musical director Dr. David Hill. “It’s rare to perform a piece that is perfect in every aspect: dramatic timing, clarity of meaning, and balance of lightness and depth.”
Throughout history, Giacomo Puccini has always been the audience’s choice. With musical compositions and plotlines that have the ability to profoundly affect the audience, his operas remain among the top ranking operas performed worldwide.
La bohème is no exception. The simple story of four starving artists attempting to survive the harshness of Paris in the 1920s brings with it the elements of love, selflessness, and sacrifice. Following the story of poet Rodolfo and his love for the dying Mimì, the audience learns the importance of true love’s endurance through the hardships of life.
Bethany Roberts (Sr., Canada), a performance studies and music (vocal emphasis) double major, appreciated the opportunity to join the cast in a few minor roles. “I knew that I would learn a lot through this production,” she said. “When I see the end of La bohème I am reminded to cherish those I have around me and to be thankful that we have hope in Christ and don’t have to face anything without God.”
Kollin Dembeck (Sr., FL), who played the musician Schaunard in La bohème, was the youngest principal in the cast, playing the youngest character in the opera. In the final scene of the opera, Schaunard is the first to realize Mimì has died, turning a usually jovial character somber. “So just as Schaunard grows and matures through the events of the opera, so have I during this whole production!” said Kollin, who believed that “the personal coaching from Dr. Hill and Mr. Gibbs are what were truly the most beneficial to me in portraying my character.”
Fine Arts artistic director Mr. Ray Gibbs brought some unique additions to an already-stellar work. PCC’s former artist-in-residence, Gibbs had previously played the lead character Rodolfo in La bohème at the Metropolitan Opera. Gibbs’s experiences performing lead roles with opera companies all over the United States and Europe have made him instrumental to La bohème’s success at PCC; but according to Hill, what makes Gibbs so invaluable as a director is his focus.
“The most special part about working with Gibbs is that his walk with the Lord is evident to everyone, from production staff to chorus members. This gives each production a wonderful sense of purpose,” said Hill.
From the first rehearsal, Gibbs chose a production verse for the cast and crew to recite together before every practice. Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me,” became the rally cry for La bohème.
The fleeting quality of Mimì’s fragile life combined with her selfless concern for the other characters make her death even more touching. As the character Colline, played by Mr. Scott Roberts, profoundly said during Mimì’s death scene, “Each of us in a different way can accomplish a kindness of his own.”
According to Hill, that was the purpose of PCC’s performing La bohème. “We hoped the audience would take away the importance of redeeming the time,” he said.
At the end of each night, the audience’s applause echoed the instant success La bohème received, this timeless opera remaining a classic and a favorite.