Entertainment » Music

No longer a starving artist, tenor Bryan Hymel stars in high-tech ’Bohème’

by Lewis Whittington
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Sep 26, 2012

The Opera Company of Philadelphia is streaming their new production of Puccini's "La Bohème" their season opener, to opera fans on stadium screens on Independence Mall October 6. The production opens at the Academy of Music on September 28th.

Last year OCP had their first simulcast from the Academy, which proved a huge success with over 5,000 people standing out in the rain to see Bizet's "Carmen."

"La Bohème" is equally as popular as that opera, with melodies that even non-operas fans can recognize. Written in 1896, the opera is set in mid-19th century Paris and concerns the lives of starving artists, specifically the poet Rodolfo and Mimi, a seamstress he meets on a cold Christmas eve.

Italian director/designer Davide Livemore stages the production that boasts a young international cast including soprano Norah Amsellem as Mimi, Troy Cook as Marcello, Leah Partridge as Musetta and one of the most dynamic tenors in the world right now, Bryan Hymel as Rodolfo.

High-tech Puccini

What is unique about this ’Bohème’ is that Livemore is collaborating with the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Barnes Foundation in a high-tech design concept that displays works by Renoir, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh and Cassatt through HD projections and animations. Livemore uses some 30 paintings from the two museums, all taken from the period when the opera was written, including Van Gogh’s "Starry Night" and Toulouse-Lautrec’s "At the Moulin Rouge: The Dance."

A week before their premiere, Hymel and his co-stars were just seeing the designs at the Academy. EDGE spoke to the tenor by cell phone from the wings about the art-tech elements.

"This ’Bohème’ is conventional in all the ways that you hope," Hymel explained. "But different too, in very interesting ways that captivate."

One crucial aspect is that Hymel didn’t want the high-tech concept to overwhelm the musical elements.

"Over the past two days of rehearsal, we’re just seeing how the designs work and, without giving a lot away, it’s not just backdrops, it’s more interactive. Davide (Livemore) is Italian and he knows the music from the characters’ viewpoint, and he won’t get in the way of that (with his design concepts)."


The other technically challenging aspect of this "Bohème" is the live streaming, but that’s something Hymel is used to by now. He starred in the 3D movie version of "Carmen" staged at The Royal Opera House in London and shown in movie theaters a year ago.

"You still worry about cracked notes, how you look and things like that, but you get used to it quickly." he said.

The much-in-demand recently completed a run of Berlioz’s "Les Troyens" in a lavish production at Covent Garden in July, which was broadcast in Europe.

He performed with incoming Philadelphia Orchestra maestro Yannick Nezet-Seguin, a premier opera conductor as well, at Vail Summer Festival in Colorado with soprano Angela Meade. Both singers are alums from Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia.

That the artists in "La Boheme" are trying to work with no heat and scant food is not completely alien to Hymel. "I came there to study at Academy of Vocal Arts from New York with very little money... I was living the bohemian lifestyle here, but still being about to feed my soul with great art studying at AVA. Plus four guys living together, giving each other a hard time... Everyone at one point has had roommates and have to make the best of it, not getting in each others ways.

"It means a lot to me to be back in Philly with this production," he added.

Meanwhile Hymel is one busy tenor. He met his wife, Irini, a soprano from Greece, in London in 2010 and they have been married just over a year. "Irini and I sing the duets from ’Bohème’ in concert all the time. "The music is so wonderful. People still fall in love like Rodolfo and Mimi; you can get past all the jadedness, and fall in love quickly. It still can happen, that’s why ’Bohème’ is so much fun."

Opera Company of Philadelphia’s new production of "La Bohème" runs for five performances from Sept 28-Oct 7, 2012 with a recorded live broadcast from the Academy of Music on Independence Mall, Saturday Oct. 6, 2012. For complete information go to the Opera Company of Philadelphia’s website.

Lewis Whittington writes about the performing arts and gay politics for several publications.


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