Pacific Opera Project's La Boheme AKA The Hipsters - Rowdy and Funny Yet So Sublime

Mimi and Rodolfo have a moment

When director/designer/tenor Josh Shaw started the Pacific Opera Project (POP) with his partner Stephen Karr in 2011. Their first "pop- up" production" done with food and wine offerings and a short rehearsal time was La Boheme AKA The Hipsters.  Their concept was to bring quality opera and humor to wide audiences for low prices.   It was a brand-new enterprise, little known.  Now just three and a half years later, they have re-produced that first show and people are clamoring to get sold-out seats.  The Opera League and Occidental College were represented at the show I attended.  The talent is through the roof, and there are many great opportunities for POP on the horizon. 

 

Rodolfo and Marcelo try to keep warm by burning Rodolfo's script

In their short history, POP has collaborated with the LA Opera and the Orange County Symphony, held auditions around the country and attracted world class singers.  Their first performances in a “real” theatre (proscenium with auditorium seating) are upcoming soon at the El Portal.

 

All the hipster guys horsing around

How do they do it?  Having seen a few of the productions, I would say vision and love.  The comedy wins over those who have never before attended opera, and the quality of the talent POP attracts pulls in true opera lovers. 

In their current production of La Boheme AKA The Hipsters, the entire story of Puccini’s La Boheme is set in Southern California.  The super titles bring everything to the here and now, including the local dialect and popular expressions, all the while staying true to the original Italian.  Amazing.  Everything translates perfectly well except one thing.  In a modern Southern California world, how come no one thinks to bring Mimi to a Free Clinic?

Rodolfo and Mimi first catch each other's eye

 

I was bowled over by the talents of Shaw’s latest star, James Callon as Rudolfo.  Here is an overweight, sloppy-looking, unassuming character wearing a knit hat and glasses who perfectly fits the “hipster” antics of the opening scenes.  But when he falls for the demure Mimi and opens up his inner self--watch out.  His vocal expression is pure magic.  I felt that I was swept into the center of his tender emotions and never wanted to leave.  Outstanding.  I hope his career continues to expand and we can see much more of him and his amazing talents in Los Angeles.  Every time he sang from his heart it touched something deep in mine.  

 

A night at the cafe

Daria Somers as Mimi is lovely and her voice is also beautiful as it quivers and vibrates. When she and Callon sing together it is synchronistic. Kudos go to the director Josh Shaw for his eye for casting. Daria has been delighting audiences since the beginning of POP, and I've noticed her since attending POP’s fabulous rendition of Cosi Fan Tutti. (Please see review on LASplash)

Mussetta does her thing with the guys

 

But it is the vocal and comedic antics of Katherine Giaquinto that gain the loudest audience response.  In this production, her vibrant sexual presence dominates the stage and she has the trained artistic equipment to pull it off.  What a knockout.  She has been another regular performer of the special productions of this company and helped them fulfill their vision of the rowdy yet sublime.  May her success ever grow to be as big as her talent.

 

Marcelo and Musetta fight while Rodolfo and Mimi patch things up

All the other characters including Ryan Thorn as Marcello, Keith Colclough as Colline, E. Scott Levin as Schaunard, and Robert Norman as characters Benoit, Alcindoro and Parpignol are abundant in their gifts of comedy and song. 

 

The tragedy of Mimi's death

The entire opera is performed with the solo piano of the hugely talented Stephen Karr. 

It’s a shame the performances are so few, but POPis a group to watch.  The Pacific Opera Project is on the rise and it is a privilege to witness their ascent.

 

Georja Umano is an actress and animal advocate.

Photos by Martha Benedict

 

PACIFIC OPERA PROJECT'S LA BOHEME AKA THE HIPSTERS

AT THE HIGHLAND PARK EBELL CLUB

131 S. Avenue 57,  Los Angeles, CA 90042

more shows:

Dec. 18, 19, & 20 at 8pm

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