Opera Kelowna presents Giacomo Puccini’s La bohème, August 18-19 at the Kelowna Community Theatre. (White Willow Photography)

Fresh retelling of beloved timeless love story

Opera Kelowna presents Giacomo Puccini’s La bohème, August 18-19 at the Kelowna Community Theatre

It’s a heart-wrenching tale of Bohemian society, following poets, painters, and performers who struggle for art and love amidst poverty and hardship.

Opera Kelowna presents Giacomo Puccini’s La bohème, Aug. 18-19 at the Kelowna Community Theatre.

One of the world’s most frequently performed operas, La bohème was originally set in the 1830s, and Opera Kelowna’s production draws on the fashion and style of the ’20s to craft a unique and compelling aesthetic.

“The cultural impact of La bohème is undeniable: Its story inspired the Broadway hit Rent; its music resonates across dozens of films; and it birthed our romantic vision of the starving artist,” says Alexandra Babbel, artistic director of Opera Kelowna. “All of this is for good reason. Puccini’s exquisite score speaks to our very hearts, eliciting fiery passion, pangs of melancholy, and joie de vivre in equal measure. We are thrilled to share our vision of this iconic work with Okanagan audiences.”

Based on Henri Murger’s 1851 novel, Scenes from the Bohemian Life, the opera is set in the frigid cold of a Paris winter. Its narrative follows the intertwined lives and loves of a small group of friends: the poet, Rodolfo, the seamstress Mimi, the painter Marcello, the musician Schaunard, the philosopher Colline, and the coquette, Musetta.

Making his North American debut as Rodolfo is Chilean tenor Leon de la Guardia. After completing studies at the Conservatorio de Musica Isidor Handler, the rising star moved to Italy and now performs on opera stages across Europe. Playing opposite de la Guardia as Mimi is Edmonton-born soprano Ana Toumine, who recently played as Rosalinde in Opera McGill’s Die Fledermaus.

Acclaimed soprano and Kelowna native Carmen Harris makes a highly anticipated return to Opera Kelowna as Musetta, after appearing as Susanna in Opera Kelowna’s 2015 production of the Marriage of Figaro. Also returning to the company is baritone Aaron Durand as Schaunard, following a commanding performance as Papageno in 2016’s The Magic Flute.

The cast will also feature baritone Adam Harris as Marcello, who recently performed the baritone solo in Carmina Burana with the Indian River Festival, and UBC alumnus, bass-baritone Peter Monaghan, who will play Colline.

Joining the principal cast members on stage are members of Opera Kelowna’s adult and children’s choruses, hailing from communities across the Okanagan. The combined company will be accompanied by this season’s Opera Kelowna Orchestra under the baton of Scottish conductor Bernard McDonald.

La bohème will mark the third Opera Kelowna engagement for director Jessica Derventzis, who recently completed work as associate director on Dead Man Walking at the inaugural Vancouver Opera Festival.

The creative team bringing Derventzis’ ’20s vision to life includes costume designer and Salmon Arm native Keren Huyter, and Alberta-based set and lighting designer Alison Yanota.

A series of free concerts and community engagements will support and inform La bohème’s run. Details can be found at www.operakelowna.com.

Opera Kelowna presents La bohème Aug. 18-19 at 7:30 p.m at the Kelowna Community Theatre, 1375 Water St. Kelowna. Tickets start at $51.50 and are available from the box office: www.kelownaactorsstudio.com or call 250-862-2867.