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Published1 Aug 2019

Opera on the Mall broadcast of Puccini’s La bohème kicks off Festival O19

FREE, HD broadcast presented through the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and PNC Arts Alive takes place at Independence National Historical Park on Saturday, Sept. 14

Opera Philadelphia’s recent revival of Puccini’sromantic blockbusterhad audiences and critics captivated, calling Opera Philadelphia's La bohème “a true homage to the classic” (Broadway World) and “overwhelmingly beautiful” (6ABC). With the singers “among the best Bohemians encountered” (Bachtrack) and “one of the strongest quartets ever heard in this piece” (Broad Street Review).

Now, opera lovers who missed its return at the Academy of Music, or can’t wait to see it again, will have one more chance to see this beloved masterpiece on Saturday, September 14, at 7:00 p.m., as part of Opera Philadelphia’s 9th annual Opera on the Mall at Independence National Historical Park. Opera on the Mall has brought free opera to more than 30,000 Philadelphians since its inception in 2011, with more than 4,000 attendees at 2018’s broadcast of We Shall Not Be Moved.FREE tickets will be available to the public starting on Wednesday, August 14, at 10 a.m. at operaonthemall.org.

The bohemians go to Café Momus for dinner on Christmas Eve. Credit: Steven Pisano

Regarded as one of the greatest love stories in opera, Puccini’s La bohème embraces the passion and torment of bohemian life. A chance encounter on a winter night changes everything for Mimì and Rodolfo, sending them into a deep, passionate whirlwind in the heart of Paris, living among other young bohemians who are making art and falling in love. Desire, jealousy, and fate charge the score – and audiences with it.

Davide Livermore’s “visually inventive and colorful” (Opera News) production was first performed by Opera Philadelphia in 2012. Since then it has traveled to the Palau de les Arts “Reina Sofía” in Valencia, Spain and made its way back to close out Opera Philadelphia’s 2018-2019 season.

The art collections of the Barnes Foundation and the Philadelphia Museum of Art served as the inspiration for the production designers, with vivid projections of some of the world’s most renowned Impressionist art from the turn of the 20th century—including works from Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Cassatt— with costumes and other design elements influenced by paintings and drawings from the collections.

“The incredible collections from the Barnes Foundation and the Philadelphia Museum of Art provide a rich patina that combine with the lush melodies of Puccini to create new interactions with both art forms. We see Renoir's ‘Woman Sewing’ as Mimì sings of her job as a seamstress. Van Gogh's beloved ’Sunflowers’ blooms in time with the love of Mimì and Rodolfo, and when he famously buys her a bonnet, we see Renoir's ’Girl With Pink Bonnet.’” said David B. Devan, General Director & President of Opera Philadelphia.

Opera Philadelphia’s Jack Mulroney Music Director, Corrado Rovaris, leads the cast, “intelligently maintaining the pace of Puccini’s not-a-note-wasted score” (Philadelphia Inquirer). Soprano Vanessa Vasquez, a graduate of Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts, is the shy seamstress Mimì alongside tenor Evan LeRoy Johnson, a Curtis Institute of Music graduate, as Rodolfo. Baritone Troy Cook offers “a strong, well-rounded portrayal of Marcello” (Opera News). Opera Philadelphia Emerging Artist Ashley Marie Robillard who plays the role of Musetta--Marcello’s muse and sometimes girlfriend—is “winning as the saucy Musetta” (Chestnut Hill Local). Baritone Will Liverman, who returns to Opera Philadelphia in September in the company premiere of Prokofiev’s The Love for Three Oranges, is a “vividly drawn, beautifully vocalized Schaunard” (Opera News), with bass Peixin Chen as Colline and bass Kevin Burdette in the dual role of Benoit and Alcindoro.

Opera on the Mall
Opera on the Mall annually draws thousands to Independence National Historical Park Credit: HughE Dillon

Opera on the Mall: La bohème, presented by PNC Arts Alive and Knight Foundation, will serve as a celebratory kickoff event for O19, Opera Philadelphia’s third annual festival featuring twelve days of operatic events all over the city from September 18-29.

“Through PNC Arts Alive, we continue to help invigorate local arts organizations while bringing new and exciting programs to our community,” said Joe Meterchick, PNC regional president for Philadelphia, Delaware and Southern New Jersey.  “The creativity and collaboration demonstrated by the local arts community is evident in the programs that will be introduced, while enabling new visitors and residents alike to experience a diverse range of exhibits and performances.”

Opera on the Mall: La bohème ispresented by PNC Arts Alive and Knight Foundation. Xfinity is a sponsor of Opera on the Mall. The National Park Service, Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, Independence Visitor Center, and City of Philadelphia Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy are event partners. WHYY and Metro are media partners.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit www.kf.org.

About PNC Arts Alive
Opera on the Mall is presented through PNC Arts Alive, a multi-year, multi-million dollar grant initiative of PNC and the PNC Foundation, which receives its principal funding from The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc.  Now in its eleventh year, PNC Arts Alive challenges visual and performing arts organizations to put forth their best, most original thinking in expanding audience participation and engagement.   A very prestigious grant, just over 30 organizations were selected in 2019–and this notably includes several first-time grantees, through a newly expanded PNC Arts Alive initiative designed to support smaller, community-based arts and cultural organizations whose programming directly benefits the neighborhoods in which they operate. For more information on PNC Arts Alive and the grant recipients, visit www.pncartsalive.com.

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