Love and beauty take centre stage in New Zealand Opera's La bohème, with an exciting young cast from around the world beginning rehearsals in Auckland this week.
Director Jacqueline Coats has gathered a team of New Zealand's top stage creatives, collaborating with an award-winning trio of designers - Elizabeth Whiting (costumes), Rachael Walker (set) and Jennifer Lal (lighting) to create a setting worthy of Puccini's beautiful story of love, loss and friendship.
The world of the bohemians in this new production is a stylised one with the feel of snow-clad 1890s Paris, but not tied to one era. Period silhouettes mix with contemporary materials in a wintery setting for a story that remains timeless – how the world changes around the youths as they experience the highs and lows of being in love.
"La bohème is many people's favourite opera not only because the music is beautiful, but because the story is still just as relatable as when it premiered in the late 1800s," says Director Jacqueline Coats.
"We recognise ourselves and people we know in the characters. Everyone has stories of living on dreams and two minute noodles in student flats, and this is very much the world of our Parisian bohemians."
This production continues the company's 2018 theme of bringing talented New Zealanders home, including London-based singers Marlena Devoe (Mimì), Dame Malvina Major Foundation Fellow Thomas Atkins (Rodolfo) and Julien Van Mellaerts (Shaunard) in their New Zealand Opera debuts, and Ryman Dame Malvina Major Foundation Mina Foley Scholar Amelia Berry flying in from New York for her role debut as Musetta.
The principal cast is rounded out with Australians Nicholas Lester (Marcello) and Timothy Newton (Colline), Auckland-based New Zealand Opera stalwart Barry Mora* (Benoît/Alicindoro) and Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist Manase Latu (Parpignol).
Swedish Conductor Tobias Ringborg will lead the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and Orchestra Wellington, with the Freemasons New Zealand Opera Chorus performing in both cities.
"It's especially exciting to have a cast of singers of the same age as the characters they'll play. While some are making their company debuts, they all have impressive international credits behind them and we're fortunate to be seeing them in New Zealand at this stage of their careers," Coats said.
"We've been preparing for La bohème behind the scenes for more than a year, so we're thrilled to finally be in the rehearsal room with this wonderful cast and conductor to see our ideas begin to come to life. We're looking forward to revealing this brand new production to audiences in September and October."
ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland - 13-23 September
Opera House, Wellington - 4-13 October
More information: www.nzopera.com
Tickets from $50 at www.ticketmaster.co.nz
In Italian with English surtitles
*Barry Mora replaces Richard Greager who is unavailable due to an injury.