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La Bohème – an opera about love, art, friendship and heartbreak – comes to Las Cruces

One of the world’s most famous and beloved operas, La Bohème, will be staged in Las Cruces this weekend, telling the tragic story of a group of friends whose lives are forever changed one freezing Christmas Eve in Paris. Conductor Jorge Martinez-Rios will conduct the newly-formed La Frontera Opera Orchestra in two performances, along with four emerging opera stars whose credits include the Santa Fe Opera Apprentice program, Utah Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, and numerous other stages. The opera is presented by the Borderland Arts Foundation, formed a little over ago to expand musical opportunities in the border region, including opera.

Intermezzo host Leora Zeitlin sat down with Martinez-Rios and Borderland Arts Foundation president Erik Maese to talk about Giacomo Puccini’s famous opera, this production, some of their favorite arias, and more. While there won’t be a full stage set, the singers will be in front of the orchestra with props in a semi-staged concert production. For Martinez-Rios, bringing together professional opera singers and orchestral musicians, NMSU instrumental and vocal students, the Centennial High School choir, and the community for this production has been an exciting opportunity for everyone.

“What has happened to me while studying the score is that, I know the words – but he music is so well written, such genius, that the music takes you beyond what you are hearing in the lyrics,” Martinez-Rios said. “The emotions and the experience of going to an opera… is just an incredible experience.”

Maese, who played violin in a production of the opera while in college and learned to conduct two of the acts, said, “the truth that’s within that music is remarkable, and the fact that over a century later it’s still ringing true and it’s still relevant to the human experience is absolutely a beautiful thing.”

Sopranos Adia Evans and Emily Michiko Jensen, tenor Jehú Otero, and baritone Brandon Bell will perform in this weekend’s production. Performances are on Friday, May 3 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Atkinson Recital Hall on the NMSU campus.

Borderland Arts Foundation president Erik Maese and conductor Jorge Martinez-Rios in the KRWG studios.
Leora Zeitlin
Borderland Arts Foundation president Erik Maese and conductor Jorge Martinez-Rios in the KRWG studios.

Musical clips in the interview come from a full recording of “La Bohème,” featuring Robert Spano conducting the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra (Telarc 80697):

1.) “O soave fanciulla” sung by Norah Amsellem and Marcus Haddock;

2.) “Che gelida manina,” sung by Marcus Haddock;

1.) “Donde lieta usci… Dunque è proprio finita!” sung by Norah Amsellem, Marcus Haddock, Georgia Jarman, and Fabio Capitanucci;

2.) Orchestral ending of the opera.