By Nino Pantano
For Brooklyn Daily Eagle
After having to vacate its much-loved venue at Regina Hall, the Regina Opera has found a new home at Our Lady Of Perpetual Help (OLPH), at Sixth Avenue between 59th and 60th Streets in Sunset Park. A plush red curtain, larger stage and 500 soft red seats were available for this “rebirth” of a venerable institution.
Saturday, Nov. 17 was the inaugural performance. Giacomo Puccini's "La Bohème" was a perfect opera. When principal conductor Scott Jackson Wiley's baton brought out the opening chords and the 30-plus musicians responded so firmly, we all breathed a sigh of relief that the music goes on and the songbird prevails. The orchestra is now bi-level -- some members are in the pit and others on ground level. It is larger than the old venue but still the same in its offerings and magic.
Mimi, a seamstress, was poignantly sung by Soprano Christina Rohm, who broke our collective hearts with her fine-spun and powerful soprano in such gems as “Mi Chiamamo Mimi” in the first act and “Addio Senza Rancor" in the second act. Her death scene was shattering, and many in the house were dabbing their eyes.
Tenor Benjamin Sloman was a fine match for such a touching Mimi, and his manly tenor thrilled us in “Che Gelida Manina” and their lovely duet “O Soave Fanciulla” in which he hit a high C in a magical blend with Ms. Rohm.
Lisa Flanagan was a powerful Musetta, a Grisette, and her robust singing of “Musetta's Waltz” earned her much applause. Her arguments with Marcello and her compassionate heart in the final act made hers a vivid portrayal.
Gustavo Morales as Marcello was a fine artist and sang nicely in his final act duet with Rodolfo, "O Mimi," but his light baritone voice, while pleasant in timbre could not oblige the acoustics of the hall.
Schaunard's Julian Whitely was fine in ensemble with a pleasing baritone.
Colline, the philosopher, used his bass tenderly in a good interpretation of the "Coat Aria," in which he sells his old overcoat-friend to buy medicine for the dying Mimi.
Benoit, the landlord, was in the buffo hands of James Groff ,whose comedic flair was a plus.
Alcindoro, the “sugar daddy,” was in the hilarious hands of baritone John Schenkel, whose exasperation impacted through the house. His near-collapse upon getting the bill at the Café Momus, earned him an ovation.
Brian Ribiero was an amusing Parpignol, and his descriptive tenor made his calls heard far and wide.
Among the colorful cast were Jeremy Griffin as the sergeant, Kevin Rockower as the guard and the multi-talented Ingrid Kuribayashi as the boy. The chorus of Parisians sang with gusto.
The sets, with a large banner of “La Vie de Boheme,” dominated the stage. The sets were simple but effective, and the direction by Linda Lehr as always geared to penetrate the soul and psyche of the beholder. The costumes by Julia Cornely were colorful and effective!
The final closing curtain with the distraught Rodolfo hugging the dead Mimi was indelible.
Maestro Scott Jackson Wiley and the Regina Orchestra had many peerless moments, and the finale was strong and impressive the way it should be played.
There will be two additional performances, Saturday Nov. 24 and Sunday Nov. 25, at 3 p.m., at our Lady of Perpetual Help, 5902 6th Avenue.
For information visit www.reginaopera.org