It could be said that Baz Luhrmann will tear up Broadway with his La Boheme — literally. According to Variety, set and costume designer Catherine Martin, Luhrmann's collaborator-wife, plans to remove 100 seats from the Broadway Theatre, where the production is set to begin Nov. 21 and open Dec. 8.
The "tearing up" will make room for the passerelle (a walkway that would extend into the audience and go around the orchestra) Martin plans to install as part of the production. Even though she's working with a much larger budget than she had for the Sydney Opera production in 1990 (a meager $18,000 to the Great White Way's total of roughly $5-$6 million), she is quoted as saying "this Boheme will be low-tech but with a high concept."
The concept will be reminiscent of Parisian photographer Robert Doisneau's black and white period photos of the 1950s. "The lovers, the bohemians, wear the only real color," she told Variety's Robert Hofler. The set will consist of actor-moved pieces.
Variety's Army Archerd, chatting with hot stage and film director Baz Luhrmann, reported Feb. 28 that Luhrmann's upcoming Broadway premiere of La Boheme will have three different casts to handle eight shows a week. "Musetta's Waltz," the famous Puccini aria from La Boheme, will be heard on Broadway Dec. 8, when the post modern, Baz Luhrmann-directed revival of classic opera opens at the Broadway Theatre, in the original Italian. Details about the staging, such as the unique casting concept (which presumably means the principal cast is tripled) and the on-sale date for tickets, have not yet been officially announced. Luhrmann is in the middle of the 2002 Oscar hurricane. His "Moulin Rouge" was nommed for the Best Picture Academy Award.
The brassy, free-spirited Musetta and her compadres — the poet Rudolpho and the consumptive Mimi — will sing and dance on the Great White Way in Puccini's opera beginning with previews Nov. 21. Audiences will read the spirited, romantic, tragic tale in projected surtitles, in English.
Baz Luhrmann's 2001 film, "Moulin Rouge," was nominated for an Academy Award, but Luhrmann, much to the dismay of the film community, was not nommed in the Best Director category. His collaborator-wife, Catherine Martin, who is designing sets and co-designing costumes for La Boheme, was Oscar-nominated Costumes and Art Direction for "Moulin Rouge." The picture won a Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy) Jan. 20.
Luhrmann's brash Boheme staging was first seen at the Sydney Opera House in 1990. The audacious new version is set in the 1950s.
Producers are Jeffrey Seller, Kevin McCollum, Emanuel Azenberg, and Bazmark Live. This is Luhrmann's first theatrical venture in the U.S. Rent producers McCollum and Seller are bringing the opera to Broadway, along with Emanuel Azenberg (The Dinner Party, Stones in His Pockets, 45 Seconds From Broadway) and Luhrmann's company. Rent used La Boheme, one of the world's most-revived operas, as source material. The original story (and the Rent rock opera) involves a young woman who approaches her artistic upstairs neighbor to light her candle, after which they fall deeply and tragically in love. The opera's Mimi is a seamstress (as opposed to Rent's exotic-dancer Mimi), and Rudolpho's bohemian companions are a painter, a musician and a philosopher.
Luhrmann's goal is to cast young people rather than older opera divas. "We hope to tell this story in a way that will appeal not only to the people who love Puccini's music, but to the younger audiences who may never have seen an opera before," Luhrmann said in a statement.
Luhrmann's production became the biggest hit in the history of the Sydney Opera House. In 1986, Luhrmann created a stage production of what would become his feature film debut, "Strictly Ballroom" (1992). He also directed a post-modern film adaptation of William Shakespeare's "Romeo + Juliet" (with designer Martin Oscar-nommed) in 1996, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes.
La Boheme's music director and principal conductor will be Constantine Kitsopoulos. Martin and Angus Strathie co-create the costumes and Nigel Levings designs lighting.
Luhrmann's Down Under La Boheme was later revived, videotaped and televised. The TV presentation of La Boheme was seen by Azenberg about six years ago, and he told Seller about it back then, as Rent was preparing for Off-Broadway. Seller said Azenberg was moved by the youth of the Luhrmann production — it was cast not for jowly opera divas but sexy young singers, who sang the Puccini in Italian. Seller said he remembers thinking five years ago that it would be great to mount La Boheme on Broadway and Rent Off-Broadway at the same time. Now, it seems a sure thing that the long-running Rent (which turns six April 29) and La Boheme will be uptown neighbors in 2002.