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Opera returns to O.C.

Pacific Symphony stages scaled-down version of a Puccini classic, 'La Bohème.'

April 19, 2012|By Heather Youmans, Special to the Daily Pilot

By staging "La Bohème" at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, the Pacific Symphony will launch its new "Symphonic Voices" opera-vocal initiative to bring opera back to Orange County.

"La Bohème's" enduring tale of carefree Bohemians and star-struck lovers in 19th-century Paris was set to open at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa, with repeat performers scheduled for the same time and place on Saturday and Tuesday nights.

Conductor Carl St.Clair and Stage Director A. Scott Parry will lead a cast of first-rate soloists, the Pacific Chorale and the Southern California Children's Chorus in a rendition of Puccini's most beloved opera.

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Orange County lost its opera company, Opera Pacific, in 2008 after it went bankrupt. Now, the Pacific Symphony will once again breathe life into the local opera scene, with help from "La Bohème's" honorary producers, which include the Segerstrom Foundation, S. Paul and Marybelle Musco, as well as support from nearly 150 donors.

"It is just so wonderful to have opera back in Orange County," St.Clair said in a phone interview. "One of my goals several years ago in starting these talks and planning these concert operas was to bring opera back to Orange County and to put it back on our stages, to allow our audiences to really experience this incredible genre — where theater enhances music and the music enhances theater."

St.Clair, the mastermind behind the initiative, was inspired by his successful career as an opera conductor in Europe. He worked as general music director and chief conductor of the German National Theater and Staatskapelle in Weimar, Germany, as well as general music director of the Komische Oper Berlin.

"I chose this opera for a number of reasons," St.Clair said. "One, it's a magnificent score with every note in some way describing the drama that is going on stage between the characters."

"Two, it's one of the most beloved and most famous," he added. "Three, it's more about interaction between the various characters. It's all about interpersonal relationships and it's not so much about how the costume looks or how the set looks. So, this is one of the operas that we thought would work really well in a semi-staged, concert version. Not all operas do."

The symphony's rendition is a cheaper, scaled-down version featuring light costumes and sets, lighting, projections and minimal props.

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