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La Bohème

An Opera in Four Acts
April 23 - May 6, 2011
Opera San José

Premiere: Turin, February 1, 1896
Music: Giacomo Puccini
Libretto: Giuseppe Giacosa
Based on Scènes de la vie de bohème by Henri Murger

Conductor: David Rohrbaugh
Stage Director: Timothy Near
Scenic Design: Kim A. Tolman
Costume Design: Barbara Barrett, Patricia Havey
Lighting Design: Kent Dorsey


Set applause!
Kim A. Tolman’s Café Momus, heavy on the trompe l’oeil, is immaculate and lovely, inspiring one of those only-in-opera ovations for inanimate objects.

Kim A. Tolman’s large-scale set design is a masterpiece of a Monmartr’ian Rubik’s Cube. It turns and repositions, and gets re-dressed and re-purposed with eye-popping results. Twice, the curtain reveal of a new setting garnered well-merited audience applause.

…The visual effect of each set was pitch-perfect, with a first act "garret" room that filled the entire stage, allowing ample room for group movement, but providing individual spaces for each singer. The painter Marcello perched high on a ladder, while poet Rodolfo's musings were visually framed in a small corner balcony.
Literalistic details gave life and amazing versimilitude to the scene: a cranky match-lit stove, Marcello's huge "Crossing the Red Sea" canvas, the shabby beds, and a wonderful old tin bath tub which doubled as a table. All the elements combined to create a sense of a really inhabited studio of four impoverished Parisian artists…
….Kim Tolman's cleverly-designed set included a two-story inn, allowing characters to occupy different levels. Again, this enhanced dramatic tension by varying the usually horizontal plane of action for this scene. Particularly subtle lighting added to the act's effectiveness, as a hopeful glimmer of dawn spread in the dark night sky.

...with Kim A. Tolman's imaginative set designs and Kent Dorsey's lovely lighting
effects, director Near immerses the audience in the frothy, exciting and artistic world of Gay Paree.

Winning over the audience, though, was Café Momus. After Rodolfo's rather prosaic apartment, the scenery in Act II justified applause: tall Parisian storefronts melding seamlessly into the backdrop, cool blue lighting bringing out shadows of wrought iron balconies.

The painterly sets by Kim A. Tolman are superb throughout but the second act gives us an 1840s Latin Quarter with wonderful fidelity and depth.

Kim A. Tolman's sets, especially the Latin Quarter street scene in the second act and the Orleans gate in the third, were eye-catching and a perfect scale for the production.

The scenery by Kim A. Tolman was just right for evoking the artists threadbare attic, a splashy outdoor setting for Café Momus, and a chilly customs post at the city gate.


© 2006, Kim A. Tolman Design.