Spoleto is known for its diverse programming—across genres, across continents, and across familiarities, and while seeing a classic like Puccini’s La bohème listed on the schedule may have you thinking otherwise, you may want to look a little deeper. 

A Little More…

Known for his operas in moving vehicles, operating train stations, Hollywood sound stages, and various “non-spaces” such as warehouses, parking lots, and escalator corridors, Yuval Sharon commands attention as director in his latest work of art with La bohème. 

Sharon puts his eccentric twist on Puccini’s classic masterpiece by starting with Act IV and ending with Act I. That’s right – he has produced the opera in reverse. 

“The more that we create new pieces, the more we’ll hear these old pieces in new ways.”

And that is just what happens during this 1 hour, 45 minute production. With its four starving artists preserved in eternal youth and dusted with the blush of love, Sharon takes this new piece of opera and breathes in the old pieces in the freshest of ways – a bohemian work of art in itself.

“There are big questions invoked when we perform a classic like La bohème in a non-traditional way, such as: how and why do we perform masterpieces in the here and now? What is to be gained by disrupting conventional listening?”

You can find out for yourself at the Festival beginning Saturday, May 28. 

La bohème is a co-production with Michigan Opera Theatre, Spoleto Festival USA, and Boston Lyric Opera. It is sung in Italian with English supertitles.


About the Creative Team

Kensho Watanabe (conductor) is fast emerging onto the international stage as one of the most exciting and versatile young conductors to come out of the United States. Recently recognized as a recipient of a Career Assistance Award by the Solti Foundation U.S, Kensho held the position of Assistant Conductor of The Philadelphia Orchestra from 2016 to 2019. Watanabe has previously been an inaugural conducting fellow of the Curtis Institute of Music from 2013 to 2015. Recent highlights include Kensho’s debuts with the London Philharmonic and Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestras, Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, Rhode Island Philharmonic, as well as his Finnish debut with the Jyväskylä Sinfonia.

Yuval Sharon (director) has amassed an unconventional body of work that expands the operatic form. He is founder and co-Artistic Director of The Industry in Los Angeles and the Gary L. Wasserman Artistic Director of Detroit’s Michigan Opera Theatre. Sharon made his debut with Michigan Opera Theatre in 2020 with Twilight: Gods, an innovative adaptation of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung. The first American ever invited to direct at Bayreuth, Sharon distinguished himself with a boldly progressive Lohengrin in 2018, using subtle dramatic direction to completely overhaul the opera into a critique of entrenched power structures. He is the recipient of the 2014 Götz Friedrich Prize in Germany for his production of John Adams’s Doctor Atomic. In 2017, Sharon was honored with a MacArthur Fellowship and a Foundation for Contemporary Art grant for theater.

James Blaszko (associate director) is a queer first-generation American director and creative producer. Before the pandemic, Blaszko staged Puccini’s Il Trittico in South Korea, the opening ceremony of the Harare International Festival of the Arts in Zimbabwe, and Britten’s Les Illuminations with selections of Debussy and Patti Smith in Maine. He returned to live performance in 2021 by devising and staging Puccini and Verdi Play Ball with Tulsa Opera on their city’s baseball stadium. He is currently the tour producer of The Peculiar Patriot by Liza Jessie Peterson, last performed and recorded live at Angola State Prison in January 2020.

John Conklin (set designer) has designed for The Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Opera Theatre of St Louis, Glimmerglass Opera, and the opera companies of Houston, Seattle, Dallas, Washington, and Minneapolis, among others. Abroad he has worked at the English National Opera, the Bayerische Staatsoper, and The Australian Opera. In addition, he served as Director of Production for New York City Opera, Associate Director of Glimmerglass Opera, and is currently Artistic Advisor to Boston Lyric Opera. He recently retired from teaching at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.


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Performance Details

Charleston Gaillard Center
Saturday, May 28 – Saturday, June 11
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