Let’s have a party: Alyson Cambridge fires up the menfolk as flirtatious Musetta in Puccini’s “La Boheme.” Photo: Portland Opera
Art Scatter remembers a time in Portland when the cornucopia of performance was overflowing and Friday evenings confronted culture-hoppers with the sobering reality that despite theoretical breakthroughs in physics and mathematics, mere human beings can still be in only one place at a time.
Oh, wait: That time appears to be now.
Last night saw the openings of the rich American musical Ragtime at Portland Center Stage, the smart playwright Steven Dietz’s comedy Becky’s New Car at Artists Rep, The Indie Concert with leading contemporary dancemakers Mary Oslund and Gregg Bielemeier at Conduit (this one has just one more performance, tonight), acerbic comedian Lewis Black at the Schnitz, Alfred Uhry’s Tony-winning The Last Night at Ballyhoo at Clackamas Rep, and the return of Stephen Sondheim’s modern classic Company at the Winningstad Theatre. Plus some other stuff.
Where to go? What to do?
We went for the guts with Portland Opera’s season-opening performance of Giacomo Puccini’s La Boheme, and came away with the glory, too: a lovely, funny, moving production of one of the most glorious operas ever written.
There are those who declare loudly that the 19th century came to a close in 1924 when Puccini died at age 65, and that for all practical purposes opera died with him.
That’s turned out to be a gross misunderstanding of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, both culturally and musically. (When I told a prominent but somewhat ossified classical critic many years ago how much I’d enjoyed the Bartok I’d heard the night before, he snorted and replied: “No, you didn’t. Nobody enjoys Bartok. They only say they enjoy Bartok because they think they’re supposed to enjoy Bartok.”)
Portland Opera’s production, directed by Sandra Bernhard and featuring the gorgeous-toned Kelly Kaduce as the beautiful consumptive Mimi, reminded me that classics are of their own time and place: Boheme, which debuted in Turin, Italy, in 1896, revels in a romanticism and a deep love for melody that simply don’t exist in the contemporary arts vocabulary.