Reminiscent of legendary Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan, Tebar opened space for La Bohème to breathe. He was especially sensitive in following the singers, from a flourish that sounded precisely when the flirtatious Musetta sprinkled wine on her lover to more unexpected variations as the singers at times set their own pace, especially in the first two acts. Tebar hustled to catch up with an early entrance, and patiently held back when an entrance was delayed. The orchestra responded with equal sensitivity, softly conveying tender moments and forcefully highlighting the drama, but never drowning out the singers.
The first act of La Bohème is a challenge for the leads. Barely fifteen minutes in, impoverished writer Rodolfo (Arturo Chacóno-Cruz) and the feverish Mimi (Perez) must each deliver a love-struck aria and a duet in rapid succession, with the tenor hitting a high C. Chacóno-Cruz nailed it, and both singers acquitted themselves competently, but the power of their individual performances and the chemistry between them grew stronger throughout the opera. By act three, Perez seemed utterly believable and moving in her farewell to her fearful lover in the aria, “Donde lieta usci.”
The rest of the cast provided strong support. Mark Walters, in a less prominent role than his star turn in Rigoletto last season, still showed himself the accomplished veteran of the cast, exuding confidence and stage presence. Adam Lau, a member of FGO’s Young Artists program, was in strong voice throughout as Rodolfo’s friend Colline, and was especially moving in his aria in Act Four, where he decides to sell his beloved coat to raise money for Mimi’s medical care. Brittany Ann Reneé Robinson played Musetta for laughs, perhaps concentrating more on her acting than her singing.
Like the leads, the audience took a bit of warming up too. There was a pause between Acts One and Two that was not announced in the program, leaving people wondering whether to stand up or stay seated. Then after Act Two, the curtain fell on the busy street scene, then rose again after a few minutes so the chorus could take a curtain call. This caught unawares many a soul eager to get in line for a cocktail or snack and diminished what might have been stronger applause. By Act Three, everyone was settled in their seats, oohing and ahing over the artificial snow fall, which received the strongest applause to that point. By then, the singers were warmed up too, and the audience deeply appreciative. At curtain call, though, the biggest applause was reserved for the conductor.
Florida Grand Opera’s La Bohème continues Nov. 21, 24, 27, 30, and Dec. 2 at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami and on Dec. 6 and 8 at the Au-Rene Theater in Fort Lauderdale. For details, visit fgo.org.