It’s “La boheme,” Giocomo Puccini’s durable masterpiece about young bohemians living in France in the 1840s. Times may change, but the fire of youth does not, as this grand production by The Atlanta Opera illustrates.
Kennesaw State University voice teacher, soprano Leah Partridge, calls the classic opera “beautiful.”
She would know, from the inside and firsthand.
Partridge is cast as Musetta, one of the pivotal young lovers in Puccini’s tale of passion and loss. She plays opposite baritone Trevor Scheunemann as her temperamental boyfriend Marcello.
Italian soprano Maria Luigia Borsi is lead character Mimì. Tenor and fellow Italian Gianluca Terranova plays her paramour, Rodolfo.
Of her European castmates Partridge said, “There are many great American singers, but they (Borsi and Terranova) are amazing. People who know voices are going to be surprised at the beauty of theirs.”
It was a long, red dirt Georgia road for Partridge from a childhood in small town Lincolnton where she grew up listening to gospel and country music and where Puccini seemed like something from another planet.
“I didn’t grow up with opera,” she said. “I didn’t understand it. I didn’t even know you could be such a thing as an opera singer.”
Still, she studied voice and, after getting an undergrad degree from Mercer, she was off to graduate studies at Indiana University in Bloomington.
“A big opera factory,” she said, a fond reference to the college known as a top music school for the art form.
Another member of Partridge’s family has found his way onstage for this production: her dog, Bingo. The Jack Russell Terrier has his own Facebook page and appears in Act II, which also features a children’s chorus.
“He’s great onstage,” she said of the energetic pet she calls “the world’s first opera barker.”
Bingo has been rehearsing his entrance like every other member of the cast. Partridge routinely posts photos of him online running around with a toy bone before settling down to the business of “La boheme.”
No microphones are used during the show for the singers.
“We train our voices like athletes, in order to be heard over the orchestra,” Partridge said.
About this production of “La boheme,” the soprano said, “It’s just so beautiful. If you’ve never been to an opera this is a great ‘first one.’”
The Atlanta Opera presents “La boheme” at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center, opening Saturday and running for four performances through Oct. 11.
For more information and ticket purchasing, visit www.atlantaopera.org.