True Love: the Premiere at the Astana Opera

Giacomo Puccini’s outstanding work – the opera La Bohème was presented to the audience’s attention at the Astana Opera on April 19 and 20. Stage Director Andrea Bernard’s new look at the eternal love story amazed and enraptured the capital’s audience. The Eiffel Tower, a merry-go-round awash with lights and a life-sized train that travelled across the stage delighted everyone in the auditorium. The premiere was held with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Sports of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

“There are many interpretations of La Bohème, but this is one of the best productions,” the astonished audience said at the end of the performance.

The success of the production was made possible by the fact that the best Kazakh artists, as well as the most famous and sought-after masters of classical art in the world, worked on it.

One of them is Maestro Giuseppe Acquaviva, a famous expert on Puccini operas, who knows fine details of this rather difficult to perform style. Judging by the sound of the Astana Opera Symphony Orchestra, the conductor managed to convey to the musicians all the nuances of the score. Every second, every moment of music in their performance was filled with meaning. It is known that at the time of his studies in Milan, Giacomo Puccini, just like the heroes of his opera, lived in poverty in a garret, hiding from creditors and clashing with the landlord. Perhaps that is why he conveyed his characters’ personalities so vividly.

World-renowned master, holder of the Order of Dostyk, an outstanding contemporary set designer Ezio Frigerio presented the opera house with one more masterpiece. Interestingly, the capital’s audience knows the maestro’s style from the productions representing the 19th century era, whereas in this production the beginning of the 20th century was shown. Because of this, La Bohème seemed closer and more relatable to the modern listeners. Large-scale multi-level sets transferred everyone from scene to scene, from an abandoned factory shrouded in pipes, which had its own special romanticism, to the city square – bright, flooded with light, conveying the real atmosphere of a luxury Parisian fair, to the snow-covered railway station…

The artists were able to breathe the spirit of materially poor, but spiritually rich bohemian creators in each of these scenes. Soloists created magnificent duets in lyrical and dramatic episodes. On different days: Mimi – Maria Mudryak and Maira Mukhamedkyzy, Rodolfo – Medet Chotabayev and Zhan Tapin demonstrated excellent knowledge of Puccini’s vocal style. I would particularly like to mention the performers’ acting skills. They felt their characters very subtly, empathized with them, invested deep emotions, and pretty much lived onstage.

Both comedic and dramatic scenes performed by Saltanat Akhmetova, Alfiya Karimova (Musetta) and Sundet Baigozhin, Talgat Mussabayev (Marcello) brought the audience to tears. The Principal Soloists’ brilliant acting talent, honed to perfection, made it possible for the listeners to enjoy every gesture, every look of the artists.

The sound, rich timbre colors, as well as vocal technique of the performers of the parts of Colline – Tair Tazhi, Bolat Yessimkhanov, Schaunard – Andrey Borisenko, Yerzhan Saipov were spellbinding. The fullness and volume of voices of Armin Babayan, Tahir Tazhi (Alcindoro), Talgat Galeev, Magzhan Amanzholov (Benoît) were impressive. Beimbet Tanarykov and Ramzat Balakishiyev – the performers of the part of Parpignol – successfully opened up from the acting standpoint. Samat Zharylkassynov and Bakhtiyar Omarov performed the role of the Customs Sergeant.

It was symbolic that the young director Andrea Bernard staged a production about youth. By virtue of his age, he understood this youthful enthusiasm, creative people’s thirst for everything new and unknown, as well as the feeling of first love.

Professional circus artists participated in the holiday scene. The merry-go-round fit the jugglers, clowns and stuntmen, who managed to create an atmosphere of the upcoming celebration. It seemed as if this fair day had united everyone around.

The Academy Award winner Franca Squarciapino has created magnificent costumes. Despite the fact that, according to the libretto, the heroes of the opera are poor intellectuals, each of their outfits was a piece of art in itself, albeit having a worn-down look. Thanks to the aging and distressing technique, harmoniously selected colours and textures of fabrics, the characters’ social statuses were quite easily read: here comes the bourgeois, this is the city crowd and working-class people.

The choir under the leadership of the Chief Choirmaster of the Astana Opera Yerzhan Dautov, sounded phenomenally expressive. The work of the young artists of the Children’s Studio headed by the Choirmasters Altynganym Akhmetova, Aigerim Makibayeva, is worth mentioning separately.

The capital’s audience enthusiastically embraced the new production of the outstanding Italian composer’s immortal opera.

The Astana Opera Press Office

tel. (7172 -70 95 94; 70 96 19) e-mail: astanaopera@gmail.com

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