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Jacobs premieres its newest opera production



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Rodolfo, played by Derrek Stark, pours a drink for Mimi, played by Lacy Sauter, during the dress rehearsal for "La Boheme" on Tuesday at the Musical Arts Center. Wensi Wang and Wensi Wang Buy Photos

A gentle snow falls onto a young man standing center stage.

He stands shivering outside on a Paris balcony, a small blanket wrapped around his shoulders.

Another man walks onto the balcony, singing Italian.

As they both enter back into a building, the set spins and gives audiences a view of a Parisian street.

Jacobs School of Music opera performers rehearsed their newest production “La B ohème"   on Tuesday night at the Musical Arts ?Center.

“La  B ohème"  is considered one of the most popular operas of all time and was put on by the music school in 2011.

Stage Director Jeffrey Buchman worked on the 2011 production and returned to direct the opera again.

“The biggest challenge is taking a piece that is so popular and making it feel fresh and vital and making people experience it again for the first time,” Buchman said. “We are trying to make sure that what is so fresh and passionate and beautiful in the piece comes through in a fresh, honest way.”

“La  B ohème"  tells the story of Mimi and Rodolfo, bohemians living in Paris. The two fall passionately in love during the first act of the opera.

Throughout the production, the two characters go through the ups and downs of a relationship, breaking up once and finally realizing they were meant to be together.

IU senior Sooyeon Kim plays the lead role of Mimi and finds the character very similar to her own personality.

“She’s very reserved,” Kim said. “But at the same time she has this passion for love. She just falls in love very passionately and she’s been waiting for this moment her whole entire life.”

Kim began singing at a very ?early age.

Her mom was a singer, so it came naturally to her, she said.

“Opera is interesting because it has all of the elements that I want,” she said. “The drama, the acting, singing, music — everything is in opera. It just moves me.”

The emotional journey that Mimi goes through is one of the most moving parts of the opera, Kim added.

Kim said her favorite scene is the final duet between Rodolfo and Mimi.

“That moment is the most beautiful moment in the whole opera,” she said.

The emotion becomes incredibly intense in the opera’s final moments, she said.

Channeling that emotion and trying to pay attention to opera singing techniques at the same time proved to be the biggest challenge for Kim, she added.

“When emotions get into your voice, it can affect your healthy singing,” Kim said. “I really wanted to find a balance between the two and not give up either of them.”

Kim and the other performers auditioned for the opera in April. After being cast, they began working with the conductor about a month ago on their voice work.

For the past three weeks, the actors have worked with the stage directors on rehearsals.

Only getting one night off per week, the actors work long hours everyday to make sure the opera is ready for the opening show.

“We work closely with the singers and make sure everything they do is truthful,” Buchman said. “They take all their cues from the music. It creates a seamless piece where music and drama are working together in a very balanced way.”

Buchman comes to the opera with a large amount of directing ?experience.

He worked with the original director of “La  B ohème"  in 2011 to create new ideas for the ?production.

Buchman has directed operas for IU as well as professional shows in Florida and Georgia, among other states.

His experience with IU students differs from his work outside of IU.

Often in his work with professionals, Buchman said, it’s hard to identify how each performer has grown because they’re already at a certain level. That’s why he enjoys working with students, because he can be a part of developing their skillsets.

“With students, it’s an element of growth,” he said. “By now, you’re really seeing them blossom from what they were three weeks ago. That’s one of the exciting things about working at IU.”

Buchman has worked with the students for about three weeks.

He said sometimes the rehearsals have chaotic moments of working with more than 100 performers. Other times, it’s doing more intimate work with just one actor.

“I think that opera is such an amazing art form in the way that you immediately connect with it,” he said. “It’s something that draws you in.”

Buchman described “La  B ohème"  as romantic and fun, saying it was the kind of opera you want to see with other people to share the experience.

“Anyone who comes will be really happy that they came,” he said.

Buchman added that people are often intimidated by the fact that most operas are sung in different languages.

“La  B ohème” is performed in Italian.

However, like most operas, it features supertitles above the stage to aid the audience in understanding the dialogue.

Despite the supertitles, actors work hard to incorporate emotion and body language to communicate with the audience.

Even in Italian, audiences will be able to feel the passion between Mimi and Rodolfo.

“Our daily life is love, hatred, jealousy,” Kim said. “You have all the emotions that we all go through in the opera. It’s universal. Everyone can come see and be involved in any of the moments in this opera.”

“La  B ohème"  opens 8 p.m. Friday at the MAC. Tickets are available at the MAC box office or online at music.indiana.edu . The performance will also be streamed online live Friday and Saturday.

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