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San Diego Opera’s ‘La Bohème’ To Get The Drive-In Treatment

Drive-in performances of

Credit: Yves Renaud / Opéra de Montréal

Above: Drive-in performances of "La Bohème" will be staged and performed by the San Diego Opera beginning Oct. 24. The production is set to be the first professional opera in drive-in format in the United States.

The opera returns, drive-in style. San Diego Opera will finally take the stage again with what historically seems to be the company's comeback performance: "La Bohème."

The Puccini masterpiece was the first opera they produced when they opened their doors in 1965, and then the first opera staged after their threatened closure five years ago. And, after what will be a nearly eight month COVID-fueled hiatus since their last performance, they're bringing "La Bohème" back for more.

"So it is fitting that it marks our return to the stage after this period of silence," said San Diego Opera's Edward Wilensky. "It’s also a perfect opera, and responsible for creating generations and generations of opera lovers, which is one of the reasons we present it every five or six years. And right now, a bit of familiarity and routine is incredibly welcoming."

Photo credit: Marty Sohl

Angel Blue as Mimì in the Metropolitan Opera's October 2017 production of "La Bohème."

"La Bohème" tells a tragic story of poor artists living the Bohemian life in Paris in 1830. Soprano Angel Joy Blue returns as the seamstress Mimì, and tenor Joshua Guerrero will perform for the first time on the San Diego Opera's main stage (albeit not the usual main stage) as Rodolfo, a poet. The San Diego Symphony will also return to the stage to accompany the opera.

The performance is set to be one of the first live, drive-in operas in the country.

For the drive-in performances, San Diego Opera and director Keturah Stickann have retooled the performance a little, mostly to allow for a shorter, intermission-free run time and to ensure social distancing on stage. Performers are required to be spaced 15 feet apart while singing, with a 120 square foot area of space around them at all times. This means there'll be some clever use of plot devices. But otherwise, it's everything we love about the opera: elaborate sets, fantastic costumes and plenty of tragic romance.

RELATED: San Diego Opera’s ‘La Bohème’ Serves Up A Tasty Take On Puccini’s Opera

The opera will be performed live in a series of four evening performances beginning October 24, to audiences in their parked vehicles at the Pechanga Arena parking lot on Sports Arena Blvd. Audiences will watch the actors (and supertitles) on stage, while listening to the live performance via FM transmission in their car or through FM apps on a smart device.

Worth perusing: San Diego Opera has put together an impressive set of FAQs about the ins and outs of enjoying an opera in a drive-in setting during a pandemic. (Add that to the 2020 time capsule!)

Tickets for "La Bohème" are $200 per standard vehicle (for non-subscribers), and you can bring as many people as your car has seat belts. A limited number of VIP spots are available for $300 per vehicle. Four performances — Oct. 24, 27, 30 and Nov. 1 — will take place at 7:30 p.m.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that San Diego Opera's "La Bohème" will be the second live, drive-in opera production in the country.

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Julia Dixon Evans
Arts Calendar Editor and Producer

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI write the weekly KPBS Arts newsletter and edit and produce the KPBS Arts calendar. I am interested in getting San Diegans engaged with the diversity of art and culture made by the creative people who live here.

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