La Boheme comes to Belleayre

Highmount –  The Belleayre Festival Opera presents the world’s most popular opera, the Puccini masterpiece “LaBoheme” on Saturday, July 28 at 8 p.m.

Donald Westwood’s spectacular new production, designed exclusively for the Belleayre Music Festival, features a cast of today’s most gifted young, internationally-known opera stars, led by Diana McVey, Violetta in last season’s magnificent “La Traviata.” The production will be performed in Italian with SuperTitles.

The audience will be transported to 19th-century Paris via the world’s favorite Puccini opera, performed by a company of 50 singers and musicians including members of Richard Tucker’s Community Chorale of the Catskills (see related story).

Opera at Belleayre is like opera nowhere else.  Experience fabulous natural acoustics and up-close viewing under our big top, as the precarious lives and passionate loves of artists, poets and musicians in the Latin Quarter come to life in glorious sound and visual opulence. Performed in Italian with SuperTitles.

Belleayre veteran
“La Boheme,” is Donald Westwood’s 14th main-stage production for Belleayre.  His productions have been called “exemplary” by The New York Times, “a welcome addition to this city’s music” by New York Magazine and “a dynamic alternative to the giants at Lincoln Center” by Opera News.  Mara Waldman, music director and conductor of last season’s “La Traviata,” returns to conduct “La Boheme.”

Tickets the Belleayre Festival Opera’s performance of “La Boheme” are $66, $56, $46, $36 and $25 for lawn seating.

The Belleayre lineup also includes four shows in the Catskill Mountain Jazz Series starting August 3, with NYC’s Hottest Tribute Jazz Band Ed Palermo’s Frank Zappa Little Big Band. August 4, M.F. Production’s Celebration of Lionel Hampton featuring Dianne Schuur & Warren Wolf. August 10, Jazz for the “Here & Now” Stefon Harris & Blackout; the jazz series wraps up in outstanding style on August 11 with the Pat Metheny Unity Band with Chris Potter, Antonio Sanchez & Ben Williams.
Up next on August 18, from noon-6 p.m. is the Belleayre Car Show (free admission to car show). This event precedes a concert by The Texas Tenors. August 18, “America’s Got Talent” Sensations The Texas Tenors. August 25, Carolines Presents Comedy in the Catskills starring “Curb Your Enthusiasm’s” Susie Essman. September 1, “America’s No. 1 Tribute Show” The Music of Led Zeppelin - A Rock Symphony.

All shows begin at 8 p.m. Tickets for all shows are on sale via Ticketmaster. For additional information, please call 800 942-6904, ext. 1344, visit: belleayremusic.org or e-mail: belleayremusicfestival@gmail.com

“La Boheme”
The View
from the Chorus
By Richard Tucker

“Aranci, datteri! Caldi I marroni” Quanta folla! Che chiasso! Stringiti a me, corriamo.” “Oranges, dates! Hot roasted chestnuts!” “What a crowd! Such noise! Hold tight! Let’s run!”
So begins Act II of Puccini’s classic masterpiece “La Boheme” as a crowd of people - street vendors, children, townspeople, soldiers, students etc. – noisily mill about a Paris street on Christmas Eve. To one side is the Café Momus where a group of patrons are seated in front. The scene is one of the mass confusion and commotion of a busy Parisian street and is a grand moment in the opera. Though the moment quickly passes and the focus shifts to the principals it is a stunning and fascinating introduction for the chorus to the production. We then begin to go about our “stage business” as the story continues to unfold before our eyes.
“La Boheme” is one of Puccini’s best-known and best-loved operas and certainly one of the most oft-performed works in opera houses around the world. Why this great love for Puccini and “La Boheme” in particular? Puccini relies heavily on melody. Much of the popularity of his operas is due to the many “hit tunes” or big arias in his works. At the time he was writing his greatest works many other opera composers were moving away from this reliance on melody and the self-contained aria. The essence of Puccini is how he not only writes these marvelous “hits” but then incorporates them throughout the whole of the opera.
In Act II of “La Boheme,” the only act in which the chorus is onstage in our production, “Musetta’s Waltz” is a good example. This aria is a sure-fire hit by any standard and guaranteed to arouse the spirits of the audience.

Remembering good times
Later in the opera, Musetta’s sometime lover, Marcello, includes snippets from the waltz as he muses over how much he will miss her. As listeners we experience the two moments and how they relate to each other; we share with Marcello in that tiny bit of joy in the sad times as we remember the good times that came before. Puccini expresses this so masterfully in all his work, no more so than in “La Boheme.”
The chorus, representing the citizenry of Paris, is drawn back into the action as the act nears its conclusion. A parade of soldiers is passing by which the principals and the chorus get caught up in – making their exit in a joyful and giddy procession.
For the Community Chorale of the Catskills, “La Boheme” represents the seventh production of the Belleayre Festival Opera in which we have taken part. Under the direction of Don Westwood the operas have given us an opportunity to expand our choral horizons into an entirely different musical world. The combination of participating in the staging of these world-class works and singing with the magnificent voices that perform on the Belleayre stage is a heady experience indeed.
Puccini attained a level of popularity in his lifetime that very few composers have achieved. His melodies and operas are heard and recognized worldwide, even by people that do not know his name. He has become a part of the world’s subconscious. At the forefront of that awareness and recognition is “La Boheme.” See you July 28, at the opera. “Andiam!”