Touring opera company perform Puccini’s tragic tale at Crawley’s Hawth

La Boheme
La Boheme

Set in the modern day and performed in English, La Bohème proved the perfect starting point for OperaUpClose nine years ago.

t is a show they return to from time to time.

As director and librettist Robin Norton-Hale says: “We are really quite fond of it. It is a really good introduction to what we do and to opera in general.”

It plays The Hawth in Crawley on Thursday, July 19 (7.30pm).

“It is partly about bringing new audiences in to see opera and showing that opera can be fun and exciting and incredibly moving, and we are very proud that up to 50 percent of our audiences can be people who have never seen opera before.

“But I am also really pleased that a lot of our audiences are people that really love opera and are keen to see something a bit different.

“La Boheme is a beautiful piece, and it is almost like it is written as a TV drama or a play. Every moment of music drives the story along.

“We do always perform in English. There are many opera companies that prefer to perform in the language in which the opera was originally written, but I think people can get too hung up on the original.

“Every production of an opera that was first written hundreds and hundreds of years ago is a re-interpretation, and I think you have to remember that a lot of time people were listening to opera for the first time in their own language anyway.

“But I think performing it in English helps remove one of the potential barriers that people have about coming to opera. When you are looking at surtitles, you don’t get what it is happening at the moment that it is happening, especially the jokes. La Boheme is a tragedy and the ending is very sad. But it isn’t sad all the way through. There is a lot that is really funny. It is a piece of drama that ends up as a tragedy, but not a tragedy all the way through like a Shakespeare tragedy. It’s actually very entertaining.

“The original opera was about a group of students. I have made them a little bit older. They are in their early 20s. They have got their degrees in arts subjects and are wondering whether they will actually be very useful. We first did this production back in 2009, and I directed it and wrote the English libretto. I was 29 at the time and been through a period of seeing lots of people coming out of university with big plans and then getting safer or better-paid jobs.

“It felt like that idealistic group of students was still relevant.

“In the original, 19th- century students in Paris were not the poorest people. If you were studying you still had middle-class entitlement. Sometimes with La Bohème the poor student bit is overdone. We have made them just graduated, but definitely middle-class people with the luxury of thinking about where they are going to go with their lives, whether they are going to follow an artistic path or not. And then into this group comes this woman who is genuinely poor. In our production, she is an illegal immigrant. That’s why she doesn’t go to the doctor when she is getting iller and iller…”

Tickets cost £27. Call 01293 553636.

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