School of Music students, alumni take to Eisenhower stage for 'La Bohème'

March 24, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- On March 28 and 29, local audiences will be treated to performances of Puccini’s opera "La Bohème" on the Eisenhower Auditorium stage. While that stage frequently hosts national touring groups, concerts, speakers and more, this production of "La Bohème" is a special collaboration involving the School of Music in the College of Arts and Architecture, and the Center for the Performing Arts.

With sets from Pittsburgh Opera, the production features School of Music students and alumni as principal singers plus the Penn State Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Gerardo Edelstein. The production will also include a chorus of students and community members and children from the Nittany Valley Children’s Choir.

“We are excited at the Center for the Performing Arts to partner with the School of Music to produce and present grand opera on the Eisenhower Auditorium stage,” said George Trudeau, director of the Center for the Performing Arts. “By combining our forces we are creating opportunities for talented students, alumni and community members to present one of the most beloved operas of all time, an experience that is a thrill for performers and audiences alike.”

Another partner in the production is the Pittsburgh Opera, which is renting its sets to Penn State. Ted Christopher, artistic director of Penn State Opera Theatre, facilitated the partnership by reaching out to colleague and Pittsburgh Opera General Director Christopher Hahn, who was happy to work with the University. “The opportunity for our students and members of our community to perform in a fully-produced production of 'La Bohème' does not often present itself. This partnership with Pittsburgh Opera makes it possible and I am grateful to Christopher for being open and accommodating. I hope that we can work together in the future,” said Christopher.


For many in the cast of "La Bohème," doing this opera is a dream come true. C.J. Greer, a second-year student in the master of fine arts degree musical theater voice pedagogy program, plays the lead role of Mimì. She said she began preparing for the role last spring, in hopes of being cast. “I knew it was something I really wanted to go after. I made efforts to see ('La Bohème') live, listen to several recordings, even started an online Italian language class last semester to begin to get a feel for the lilt of Italian speech. It’s been a lot of work up to now and ‘miles to go before I sleep.’”

Matthew Vickers, who graduated in 2012 with a master of music in voice performance, has returned to Penn State to perform the role of Rodolfo. He began his career as an opera singer immediately after graduation and has done three tours of Europe, several oratorio and concert engagements, and Metropolitan Opera competitions as well as debuting in the role of Turiddu in Mascagni's "Cavalleria Rusticana."

Vickers said his favorite scene in "La Bohème" is the “break-up duet” between Rodolfo and Mimì in the third act. “It's a very moving scene, but the music is what appeals to me here. It is very rich and provocative.”

La Bohème, which inspired the hit Broadway musical "Rent," tells a story of love, life and loss in the Latin Quarter of Paris in the mid-19th century. Since its premiere in 1896, the opera has enchanted the public with its sumptuous lyricism, bounding spirit and deep pathos.

According to Don Marrazzo, a second-year student in the master of fine arts degree musical theater voice pedagogy program, who performs the role of Marcello, "La Bohème’s" true heart lies in the opera’s characters. “As in real life, the characters’ relationships in La Bohème reveal the ways in which we can help one another to become better, more evolved individuals.”

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 28, and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 29.

For ticket information, go to or call 814-863-0255 or 800-ARTS-TIX.

The opera is performed in Italian with English supertitles.

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Last Updated March 24, 2015