turned a Gold Coast mansion into a Parisian garret this weekend, casting the desperate lives of Bohemian lovers against the extravagant backdrop of a Guggenheim castle.
The transformation was as complete as it was ironic, a vision fulfilled by a gifted young cast of singers and the immortal score of Giocomo Puccini's 'La Bohème.'
North Shore Music Festival presented two performances of the verismo masterpiece last weekend at the at the . Sunday's afternoon performance was free, a gift to the community through the support of the , designed to attract younger audiences to the operatic art form, said Daniel Klein, the organization's executive director, who lives in Great Neck.
Amid these lavish surroundings, the company presented a stunningly intimate rendering of Puccini's 1896 tragedy, with libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. Performed in Italian with English subtitles, it is perhaps the world's most-played opera.
Somehow, the creative team, directed by Bill Fabris, worked a polished freshness into this well-known gem. His principals morphed from impoverished comrades to jealous lovers in the time-span of an abrupt key change. Joy and sadness were transposed on stage; the warm summer day on Long Island Sound was chilled by the players' longing for food, warmth and, above all, a love that wouldn't die.
Standing out among the cast was Tenor Adam Cromer (Rodolpho) who demonstrated an upper range capable of power as well as subtlety. His ringing rendition of "Che Gelida Manina," was among the opera's glistening moments.
Yet, Cromer also showed his musicality in duets with his Mimi, sung by Soprano Hannah Rosenbaum. The lovers' voices blended near perfection in the difficult first-act climax "O Suove Fanciulla."
As the coquettish Musetta, Mary Petro's impressive international resume was apparent. Petro exudes star quality, evoking an Evita-like stage presence to match her versatile soprano voice. The humanity of her transformation as the drama progressed was another credit to director Fabris.
Under the baton of Conductor Anthony LaGruth, the full orchestra executed Puccini's layered score with grace and nuance. With few exceptions, LaGruth's players found a balance between the orchestra and vocalists that befit the moment, and in less-than-perfect acoustic conditions.
The North Shore Music Festival, which presented Rossini's in July, has big plans for the future. Klein envisions his troupe expanding to other Long Island venues and exploring operas and other works that are much less known but deserving of attention.
Such growth is not only warranted for this troupe, but hoped for, like some dream one day to be in love in Paris in the spring.
Joe Dowd is the Local Editor for Plainview Patch and a lifelong student of theater and music.