UNF Opera Ensemble presents ‘La Bohème’

Sam Chaney

Photo by Sam Chaney.

Most people are hesitant to go see an opera–considering they often associate such productions with classical music elitists and viking-helmet-clad singers who scream at each other about death and love–for lack of better words.

I won’t lie: While the bit about death and love is definitely spot on, the thing about any opera is that it’s only going to be as fun as its adaptation. (If you don’t believe me, just look up the adaptation of Mozart’s Don Giovanni that was set entirely in a bathroom. I’m not kidding).

That being said, The UNF Opera Ensemble put on a production of La Bohème for its 10 year anniversary this past weekend, and the audience didn’t need to be well-versed in the world of classical music to be able to laugh and cry along with the relatable stage bohemians.

With three shows taking place over March 9, 10 and 11, the UNF cast and crew put on a delightful production of Giacomo Puccini’s Italian opera that inspired movies like Moulin Rouge and Rent.

Photo by Sam Chaney.

La Bohème is put on more often than any other opera worldwide, but aside from taking a traditionalist approach in setting and costume design, what made UNF’s adaptation so enjoyable was the obvious passion and enthusiasm the students had for the story they were telling. Many of the leading characters were played by undergraduate seniors trying to make the most of their final UNF production, and it showed in their stage presence and quality vocal technique.

There were times where the balance of the music wavered ever so slightly, such as when the overlapping melodic lines of various singers made it difficult to hear all voices at once, or certain moments when the orchestra threatened to overpower a performing soloist. However, in light of the simple piano accompaniment beneath last year’s production of Mozart’s the Magic Flute, the presence of a live orchestral ensemble was both refreshing and musically impactful.

Otherwise, between blue lighting that grew progressively darker with the mood, intentionally bare apartment sets, and scruffy costumes that emphasized how poor the characters were, this may actually be an opera that speaks to Millenials on a level we would never willingly admit to.

In all, the UNF Opera Ensemble did a great job of conveying the general misery, poverty and destitution that young struggling artists face, all while prompting laughter along the way. If nothing else, UNF’s production was the traditional sort to leave you feeling slightly less alone when you sit down to cry into your own empty piggy bank.

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