Livermore Valley Opera has been working to spread the word, sending singers into classrooms, libraries and other public venues to give people a taste of what they can expect if they buy a ticket to its performances. The outreach seems to be working.
The opening of "La boheme" on Saturday night at the Bankhead Theater in Livermore drew a crowd. "The main sections of the theater were filled and enthusiastic" at the Sunday matinee, according to Board President Jim Schmidt. Several opera publications sent reviewers; one noted that he is always happy to review performances at the Bankhead with its superior acoustics.
LVO has been presenting operas with professional musicians, stage directors, principal singers and designers since it began in 1992, performing first at Livermore High School. Volunteers serve as board members, chorus, stage crew and set builders.
With the opening of the Bankhead in 2007, the venue caught up with the quality of the operatic voices.
"La boheme" would be a good first opera experience, as would most choices of LVO, which sticks to traditional favorites. This season opened with "Tosco," and Verdi's "La Traviata" is coming in March.
On Saturday night the Bohemians in 1830s Paris drew the audience into their lives and loves as they handled their poverty with a light touch. Poet Rodolfo was alone in his attic studio when he was visited by Mimi, a pretty downstairs seamstress who needed a light for her candle, thus beginning a passionate romance that has echoed through opera halls since its premiere in 1896. The other on-again, off-again love storm was between the painter Marcello and Musetta, a girl of the Latin Quarter.
"Stories of Famous Operas" was published in 1950 with synopses of the major operas so people could familiarize themselves with the action "whether the performance is seen on the stage or heard on radio." Today we also have television and the Internet to prepare for opera performances, plus supertitles run above the stage so audience members can read the libretto as they enjoy the music and the drama.
"La boheme" continues this weekend at 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. For more information, go to www.livermorevalleyopera.com.