The Opera Is Back!
Written By: Michelle Stansbury
Photography Provided By: San Diego Opera
The San Diego Opera is coming back with a new drive-in format at the Pechanga Arena San Diego parking lot. Performances of Puccini’s “La bohème” start Oct. 24 at 7:30 p.m. with additional performances Oct. 27, 30 and Nov. 1. These performances will be some of the first professionally produced staged, live opera performances in the nation since the COVID-19 crisis. These shows will also mark the return of the San Diego Symphony performing live since canceling their season.
Sung in Italian with projected English translations, “La bohème” tells the story of young friends in Paris and the poet Rodolfo’s love affair with the sick and ailing seamstress Mimì. Musical cuts will bring the opera close to 90 minutes.
Native Knowledge: Many people know that “La bohème” was the inspiration for the musical “Rent,” but “La bohème” itself was inspired by a series of stories called “Scènes de la vie de bohème” (Scenes of Bohemian Life).
Patrons will remain in their cars for the duration and will listen to the opera through their car stereo. Guests are allowed to bring as many passengers as their car has seat belts and can bring in their own food and beverage. Tickets for “La bohème” begin at $200 per car, with a limited number of premium parking spaces at $300.
For the safety of the performers, they will not sing within 15 feet of each other and will maintain 120 square feet of space around them. To tackle these challenges, 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 safe distances.
“La bohème” marks the welcome return of soprano Angel Blue in the role of Mimì, a role she has sung on the world’s biggest stages, including the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna State Opera and English National Opera. She is joined by tenor Joshua Guerrero as the poet Rodolfo in his main stage San Diego Opera debut. Also making Company debuts for these performances are soprano Andrea Carroll (Musetta) and baritone Alexander Elliot (Marcello). Baritone Robert Mellon makes his Company debut as Schaunard and stalwart bass baritone Scott Sikon sings the roles of Benoit and Alcindoro. Bass Colin Ramsey, last heard as Marullo in 2019’s “Rigoletto,” returns to sing the role of Colline.
Native Knowledge: This will be the 13th time San Diego Opera has presented “La bohème,” making it one of the most popular operas the Company produces.
David Bennett, San Diego Opera’s general director, shares that although the format has changed significantly, the familiar experience will remain. “Even though audience members will remain in their own cars, it’s still an opportunity to have a shared communal experience, which is one of the things we are all missing now. And since the singers will be broadcast over FM radio, the sonic experience should be quite intimate. The music is immediate, the story is touching and it has tunes that everyone will recognize.”
The one big difference? Bennett suggests, “This will be the only chance you’ll have to sing along with a live performance of opera… assuming you keep your windows rolled up! Feel free to let out your inner Pavarotti.”
Performance Schedule: San Diego Opera
Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 30, 2020 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020 7:30 p.m.
Pechanga Arena San Diego (parking lot)
3500 Sports Arena Blvd
San Diego, CA 92110