The Herald Star – Steubenville, Ohio

Tuesday, April 20, 2004 REGION

“La Bohème” adds to memories

LA BOHÈME – Chorus Members of the cast of “La Bohème” performed during Act 2, Café Momus, along with Alcindoro (William Himmelbauer). The opera was brought to the stage at Steubenville High School Saturday.

Whenever I review Opera or musicals I like to sit in the front row so I can enjoy the excitement of the musicians warming up. As the snippets of “La Bohème’s” music curled around me, I remembered that “Bohème” is the most perfect of operas. Puccini created a score that is tender, opulent, rowdy, atmospheric and poetic and features some of the most memorable and endearing arias and duets ever composed.

What aspiring tenor had ever longed to sing “Che gelida Mannina”, what bass has ever held a coat and wanted to sing “Vecchia zimarra senti…” And has there ever been a budding dramatic soprano who could stay away from “Mi chiamano Mimi!?”

Over the years, the music had laid her hand lightly on the brow of the musical-minded of Steubenville and brought culture to those who thirsted. And so it was Saturday night when Follansbee native Filippo De Stefano brought his cast of “Bohème” to the Steubenville High School auditorium.

The tenor role of Rodolfo was sung by Argentine native Gustavo Lopez Manzitti, who would be welcome on any stage in the world. Without a good lead tenor “Bohème” cannot be successful, so let me say, based on Manzitti’s performance vocally and historically, the opera was a huge success. Rodolfo’s introduction to Mimi was flawless and showed his top to perfection. In the duet “O soave fanciulla…” Manzitti took the high alternate ending and brought the audience to its feet.

Tamara Tsoutsouris showed in her role of Mimi a very fine acting ability that was not lost on the audience. They were quite appreciative after her death scene and earlier at the Barrier D’Enfer, the “Dunque è proprio finito…” passage.

The second act of “Bohème” features some of the sprightliest music in all grand opera – the scene is set in the Café Momus and Musetta sings her tour de force “Quando m’envo…” sung charmingly by Judith Lynn.

One of the nice things about local productions is they afford young talent a chance to get on-stage experience, and with the help of The Center for Music and Art a number of gifted children filled that stage in Act two.

The important role of Marcello was sung by veteran Charles Karel, that of Colline by Bryan Glenn Davis, Gustavo Morales sang Schaunard and William Himmelbauer had the distinction of holding down two role, Benoit and Alcindoro. They were an experienced cast who brought realism and authenticity to their roles.

Robert Stivanello, stage director, also provided the colorful costumes.

Conductor Anthony Morse brought a wealth of experience to his performance, which was firm and always in control, but gave the singers plenty of room for interpretation.

Puccini’s music of “Bohème” had been with me for 55 years, my first hearing was the Gigli-Albanese recording from the early “30’s (and still the best).

And now our thanks to Filippo DeStefano, and the entire cast of “Bohème” for adding another gem to our musical memories.

(Creegan of Steubenville is the author/editor of “Traditions of Acting,” a biographical book and CD compilation of the great actors of the 20th century from Henry Irving to John Gielgud, Dr. Creegan lectures on film theatre and opera.)