Port Angeles Symphony to present ‘La Bohème’ this weekend

Sunday performance will take place at Field Arts Events Hall

Errin Duane Brooks.

Errin Duane Brooks.

PORT ANGELES — The music, the story, the emotion: together, they make “La Bohème” one glorious experience, say the cast members who will bring the opera to life this weekend.

“You experience happiness and grief, laughter and sadness, compassion and anger. In two and a half hours, you go through the entire palette of the human condition,” Brazilian-born baritone Igor Vieira said of Giacomo Puccini’s masterwork.

In “La Bohème,” he will sing the role of Marcello, a painter who lives in Paris.

Vieira, along with a full cast of singers and the 55-piece Port Angeles Symphony Orchestra, will perform the opera in concert at 2 p.m. Sunday at Field Arts & Events Hall, 201 W. Front St., in the symphony’s first performance in the hall’s Donna M. Morris Theater.

The concert is nearly sold out. But some tickets are still available at portangelessymphony.org or by calling the symphony office at 360-457-5579. There may be box office returns or cancellations on the day of the concert as well.

In light of the event’s popularity, the final dress rehearsal will be made open to the public at 6:30 p.m. Friday, with general admission at $20. Those tickets are available on the symphony website and at the door.

This has been a longtime dream of Jonathan Pasternack, the symphony conductor and artistic director. He has worked for the past year on casting “La Bohème” and now has singers from New York City, Detroit and Seattle, with Seattle Opera’s David McDade serving as vocal coach and rehearsal pianist.

For the Port Angeles Symphony, the event is a historic one, Pasternack said.

“La Bohème” takes place in 19th century Paris, where a poet, Rodolfo, and a poor seamstress, Mimí, fall in love one night. The story is also about their fellow artists living the Bohemian life in the city’s Latin Quarter.

Puccini finished it in 1895; 101 years later, it inspired the rock musical “Rent,” which became a Broadway hit.

Mark Davies, who sings the role of Schaunard the musician, said “Bohème” has a timeless essence all its own.

“A lot of opera is seen as a bit of an escape, focusing on royalty or historical figures or storybook characters, but ‘Bohème’ is about regular people,” he said.

“These are the types of friends and lovers that many of us cherish in our own lives,” so we can find ourselves in the story.

“La Bohème” will be sung in the original Italian with English supertitles projected above the stage.

Kristin K. Vogel, the nationally known soprano who has performed many times with the Port Angeles Symphony, will sing the role of Mimí, while Errin Duane Brooks, who has appeared in “Fire Shut Up in My Bones” and “Porgy and Bess,” among other Metropolitan Opera productions, will sing the role of Rodolfo.

This is one of the most difficult parts to cast in all of opera, Pasternack said. He heard Brooks perform with Vogel in “Madama Butterfly” at the Utah Festival Opera, and, enormously impressed, contacted the tenor to see whether he would be available this month.

Brooks, who grew up singing and playing drums in a Baptist church in Detroit, remembers hearing fellow church members with out-of-this-world voices. Their sound stayed in his heart. In high school, Brooks played football and threw shot put, but his grades suffered. His mother and guidance counselor placed him in choir, which he was not happy about.

“How-ever, that was one of the best things my mother ever did for me, because I was introduced to the world of classical music,” Brooks recalled.

“I finally understood those beautifully foreign voices I grew up hearing in my church,” he added, “and my life was never the same.”

As for Vogel, the role of Mimí is “incredibly emotional,” she said, and “I’m the type of actor who still feels it.”

“It’s a difficult life to be an artist,” Vogel admitted.

“It just keeps calling me back. When I get to see and hear live music, I am so moved.”

Vogel looks forward to performing with singers who are friends, old and new: Brooks, Vieira and Davies, Vashon Opera soprano Jennifer Krikawa as Musetta, Craig Grayson as Benoit/Alcindoro, and Alexander Adams as Colline.

“The wonderful thing with Port Angeles is you get a full orchestra experience,” Vogel added.

“A lot of the smaller opera companies in the area just don’t have the resources to do a full orchestra,” but in Port Angeles, Vogel senses the community’s support for the symphony, which is completing its 91st season with the performance of “La Bohème.”

Brooks, for his part, praised Puccini’s work, with its 129 years of performances around the world.

“From the South Pacific to Harlem, you can set the opera just about anywhere, and it will connect with the audience. [The music] is lush, tender and rich with drama, which is what’s best about opera,” he said.

“There are melodies you remember. You walk away humming parts of the opera, and these are the most important parts.”


Diane Urbani de la Paz is a freelance writer and photographer who lives in Port Townsend.

Mark Davies.

Mark Davies.

Kristin Vogel.

Kristin Vogel.

Igor Vieira.

Igor Vieira.

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