San Diego Opera has announced cast changes for its ground-breaking live, drive-in performances of La bohème.
The company has announced that Maestro Rafael Payare, San Diego Symphony’s new music director, will lead these performances of La bohème in his company debut. He replaces the previously announced Maestro Vallerio Galli. Both Maestro Galli and San Diego Opera mutually agreed to postpone his return to San Diego due to travel complications during COVID-19. Maestro Galli, who made his acclaimed company debut with 2018’s Turandot, will return in a future season. Maestro Payare is no stranger to conducting opera, and will be leading the San Diego Symphony, which performs in all of San Diego Opera’s mainstage operas.
San Diego Opera has also announced that Angel Blue will be unable to perform in this production. Blue was excited to return to San Diego Opera and was impressed with the company’s safety protocols enacted to ensure the safety of the artists, staff, and audience, but has needed to withdraw for personal reasons; she is replaced by soprano Ana María Martínez in her exciting company debut. Martinez has performed the role of Mimì at the world’s major houses including Los Angeles Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Paris Opera, and Vienna State Opera, among others.
“I am thrilled with these two wonderful additions to the artistic roster of our exciting new drive-in La bohème. Maestro Payare is a thrilling conductor and an exciting new part of San Diego’s artistic community and Ana Maria Martinez is a world-renowned artist and consummate interpreter of Puccini,” says San Diego Opera General Director David Bennett. “I am so thrilled to be working with our wonderful cast, Maestro Payare, and the musicians of the San Diego Symphony to bring live performances to our community during these trying times. The relationship between the Opera and the Symphony is long-lasting, and extends beyond the theater; we come together as partners to enrich the cultural life of San Diego.”
These performances mark the first performances of live opera in the community since the Company closed Hansel and Gretel in February and will mark one of the first professionally produced staged, live, opera performances in the nation since the emergence of COVID-19 led to cancellations and postponements around the world. These performances also mark the return of the San Diego Symphony performing live since cancelling their current season. These drive-in performances of La bohème are made possible in part by the generous support of Lead Production Sponsor Darlene Marcos Shiley.
Patrons will remain in their cars for the duration of the performance and socially distanced protocols will be enforced should the patron need to briefly leave their vehicle. Patrons will be able to listen to the opera through their car stereo which will be broadcast via an FM transmitter. Screens will also enhance audience members experience with close up footage of the singers on stage. These performances will be a car-friendly reduced performance of Puccini’s beloved opera with musical cuts to bring the opera close to 90-minutes.
La bohème is an important opera for the company; it was the first opera San Diego Opera presented when it became a producing company in 1965 and was the first opera the company presented after its near closure in 2015, which was also the company’s 50th anniversary. La bohème tells the story of young friends in Paris and the poet Rodolfo’s love affair with the sick and ailing seamstress Mimì. Considered by many to be the “perfect” first time opera, it is one of the most popular operas produced and served as the basis of the musical Rent.
Staging La bohème in a socially distanced world comes with some challenges as artists require 120 square feet of space around them, and no one can sing within 15 feet of each other. To tackle these challenges the director, Keturah Stickann, has placed the action in Rodolfo’s study sometime after the death of Mimì, which occurs at the end of the opera. The poet Rodolfo is writing his “Bohemian Stories,” and as he writes, his memories of the events of the opera come to life around him enabling singers to share the stage while keeping one another safe.
Guests are allowed to bring as many passengers as their car has seatbelts. San Diego Opera recommends guests only attend the opera with people they have already been quarantining with. All guests are required to watch the opera from their vehicle and wear masks if they briefly need to leave their vehicle to use the restroom facilities. The non-subscriber tickets for La bohème begin at $200 per car with a limited number of premium parking spaces at $300.
Sung in Italian with projected English translations, these performances mark the 12th time La bohème has been performed by San Diego Opera with the first performances as the Company’s inaugural opera in 1965 and most recently in 2015, the Company’s 50th Anniversary. Performances take place at 7:30pm each evening. 619.232.7636, sdopera.org