La Boheme by The Canadian Opera Company

With my outstretched fingertips I pulled back my cheeks and the tight skin which clung to the temples of my forehead. It was only 4pm but I was still struggling with jet lag from my recent 20 hour flight home from the Middle East which I just seemed unable to kick.

I have been silently toiling  in Toronto through the summer months devoid of my regular theatre fix. I was thrilled (yet sluggishly enthusiastic) about attending the premiere of The Canadian Opera Company’s La Boheme which officially launches my Toronto theatre agenda for the Fall. My guest for the evening would be good friend Darryl A Hoskins, Artistic Director of The Dietrich Group. In 2012 I reviewed his whimsical dance-tastic romance Paris 1994/Gallery. Darryl has enjoyed a successful career in Canadian theatre and dance and knowing that he has performed as a dancer in several COC productions in the past thought he would be a perfect date for a night with Puccini.

I was relishing in memories of Tosca, the first opera I had ever seen at the COC and another Puccini favourite as we sped down Bay Street in the back seat of a black SUV limo. Darryl and I would be spending the evening with hosts San Pellegrino who brought together a group of my favourite food writers in Toronto to enjoy sips and nibbles at The Gabardine before heading to the opera and its celebratory after party.

At 7pm I popped out of my chair and skipped down Queen Street to arrive at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. The spacious lobby was all hustle and bustle as Toronto’s opera fans dressed to the nines for the big ticket of the season. Darryl and I pranced to the orchestra and were delighted to find our seats a stones throw from the conductor.

La Boheme is one of Puccini’s most beloved masterpieces, a story which playfully showcases youthful flirtations, passionate love and heartbreaking tragedy all in one fell swoop. The story is set in the calamitous streets of Paris’s Latin Quarter in the late 19th century and explores the loves and lives of a group of young Bohemians. Puccini’s artists endure a struggle we can all relate to: pained to pay our rent, trying our best to champion love and all the while attempting to produce meaningful pieces of poetry and painterly work that we will be remembered for. La Boheme is mostly a comedy with the honest storytelling of real life, which of course has its ups and downs and in the end winces with tragic conclusion.

The audience roared, “Bravo, Bravo,” as the cast smiled for their standing ovation. After the show we headed to the third floor for San Pellegrino’s official after party. We sipped on vino while eyeing a lengthy banquet table which overflowed with baguette, charcuterie and fresh fruit. Bartenders generously poured fizzing glasses of refreshing San Pellegrino from the new 2013 Edition of “Italian Talents.” These limited edition bottles feature a silver label depicting a beaming portrait of famed Italian tenor Pavarotti. It is fitting that Pellegrino sponsored the opening night of La Boheme as Pavarotti began his career as a tenor in smaller regional Italian opera houses, making his debut as Rodolfo in La Boheme in April 1961.

Diamonds twinkled on the fingers of many of the cities well to do patrons of the arts while I stared out the window overlooking University Avenue. The city was joyfully pedestrian friendly but winter gloom felt so close. I smiled as a fondness for home washed over me. Constantly traveling is a thrilling way to live but sometimes there is nothing better than enjoying good food and drink with friends while one of Italy’s finest operas play in your backyard. Toronto we are lucky.

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