More than 30 years ago, Roy Stevens and Annalisa Winberg were among the main actors in a production of “La Bohème”. Today, they run the company that will present it again.
Modesto’s Townsend Opera Players first produced Giacomo Puccini’s famous opera in 1986, starring Stevens as Marcello and Winberg as Mimi.
Today, Townsend Opera has been renamed Opera Modesto and Stevens and Winberg, now married, are its general manager and artistic director respectively.
Winberg is also directing this season’s performance of “La Bohème,” which will take place April 29 and May 1 at the Gallo Center for the Arts in Modesto, according to a press release from Stevens.
“It’s really funny how things come and go,” Winberg said in an email. “If you told me (35!) years ago that I was going to 1) marry this guy I was on stage with and 2) we would become in charge of the opera company here, I wouldn’t would never have believed!”
“It’s a wonderful progression, actually, and we’re very happy about it,” Stevens, a Modesto native, said in an email. Winberg was born in Oceanside.
The pair met at San Jose State University’s opera department in 1982 and pursued international solo opera careers at the same time, he said.
Stevens said that “their experiences as young singers here and around the world deeply inform our approach and our enjoyment of working with developing young singers, both locally and nationally – as in this production”.
Winberg said opera making requires a lot of knowledge and skill, and she has three decades of experience in the international stage.
“I’m excited to continue to grow as an artist and to be able to create something beautiful, to help (others) perfect their art,” she said, and to contribute something to the audience that will touch and inspire him.
“La Bohème” is “arguably the most performed and beloved opera in the world, filled with fun, romance, tragedy and incredible melodies,” the press release reads.
The four-act story, set in Paris around 1830, shows the bohemian lifestyle of a poor seamstress and her artist friends, according to the statement. This is part of the verismo style of opera, in which the characters are real people, rather than gods, kings, or magical creatures.
It is a “wonderful opera that somehow manages to charm, delight and move audiences of all ages and nationalities,” the statement said.
“La Bohème” has inspired musicals (“Rent” and “Moulin Rouge”) and cartoons (“The Simpsons”), and its music often appears in film scores, according to the statement. “The famous arias (songs) are recognizable, exciting and moving. It is an excellent first opera or 100th opera.
“La Bohème” contains “some of the most memorable arias and musical scenes in all of opera. It is renowned for its famous melodies and unforgettable characters,” the statement read. fact that he put ‘great sorrows in little souls.’His operas tell us that at some point in their lives, people everywhere, from all walks of life, experience the same ordeals: love and envy, loss and heartbreak. , especially in La Bohème.
Spread near and far
Opera Modesto’s cast includes “young New York rising stars, a charming children’s choir, a small brass band of outstanding local high school instrumentalists, an acrobat, a stilt walker, a magician and even a little dog” , the statement said.
Ashley Bell from New York stars as Mimi, returning to Modesto after performing the title role here in Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” in 2018. Rodolfo’s lead role will be performed by New York tenor Jeremy Brauner, during his debut at the Modesto Opera.
Baritone Robert Balonek, who recently moved to Sonoma County from New York, plays Marcello, paired in an on-and-off romance with Musetta, played by Maryland’s Katherine Sanford.
Oregon bass-baritone Ben Brady will play philosopher Hill; CSU Northridge student and baritone Eddie Tavalin will play Schaunard; Los Angeles’ Ralph Cato will play the comedic roles of landlord Alcindoro and wealthy Benoit; and Modesto’s Shawn Soelberg will make his solo debut as toy salesman, Parpignol.
The production will be led by Opera Modesto Music Director Ryan Murray, with Chorus Director Liisa Dávila leading the community choir. The children’s choir will be performed by members of Center Stage Kids.
The production will be sung in original Italian, with English surtitles. Both performances include a free Opera Insights talk with entry one hour before curtain time featuring Murray and author Hillari Deschane.
Performances are at 7:30 p.m. April 29 and 2 p.m. May 1 at the Gallo Center, 1000 I St., Modesto. Tickets cost between $20 and $89, available at galloarts.org.