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OPERA REVIEW

New kids on the bohemian block

December 10, 2007|Chris Pasles | Times Staff Writer

A new cast of promising Bohemians took the stage in Los Angeles Opera's production of Puccini's "La Boheme" on Saturday at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. All six were singing their roles for the first time, so it wasn't surprising that it took two acts for their voices and cautious ensemble skills to warm up. But by then, things were crackling along, and the death of Mimi at the end had its usual devastating effect.

Arturo Chacon-Cruz, an Operalia winner who sang the tenor solo in the season-opening Verdi Requiem, was the new Rodolfo. His voice was of modest size and initially somewhat coarse in tone, although he did have the requisite top note. His wooden acting and his vocal skills improved considerably, however, in the last two acts.

Virginia Tola, another Operalia winner who made her company debut as Valencienne in Lehar's "The Merry Widow" in 2001, looked handsome as Mimi and sang with aristocratic poise, dying most affectingly. Under pressure, her dark-toned voice tended to spread and edge sharp, but at more intimate levels she was touching.

Hung Yun, who previously appeared under the name of Hyung Yun as the company's Angelotti in Puccini's "Tosca" (2005) and Lescaut in Massenet's "Manon" (2006), made an animated, sympathetic Marcello, although his voice was often lost in duets and ensembles.

Making her company debut, Nicole Heaston was the new Musetta. Like almost all the others, her voice was of modest size, but she sang with focus and honeyed tone and acted with charming flair.

Brian Mulligan, the new Schaunard, sang elegantly but tended to disappear in ensembles.

Christian Van Horn sang Colline's farewell to his coat with power and dignity.

Both singers were making their company debuts, although Mulligan sang the title role of Viktor Ullmann's "The Emperor of Atlantis" with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under James Conlon here in 2004.

Hartmut Haenchen again conducted.

This cast will repeat Friday and Sunday evenings. The opening-night cast will sing Tuesday and Sunday afternoons. Placido Domingo will conduct both Sunday performances.

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chris.pasles@latimes.com

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'La Boheme'

Where: Los Angeles Opera at theDorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.

When: 7:30 pm. Tuesday (first cast); 7:30 p.m. Friday (second cast); 1 p.m. Sunday (first cast); 8 p.m. Sunday (second cast)

Price: $20 to $238 ($20 for all remaining 8 p.m. Sunday tickets)

Contact: (213) 972-8001 or www.laopera.com

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