TOUTED as one of the most iconic operas of all time, Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème tells the simple yet dynamic love story of two poverty-stricken Bohemians in 1830s’ Paris. Local opera company Kuala Lumpur City Opera (KLCO), formerly known as Eat, Sing & Travel People, had previously staged La Boheme in 2012. Now, it is restaging the opera at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac) from Aug 25 to 28. When asked the reason for bringing it back at an interview recently, executive producer Danny Chen says: “Well, maybe partly sentimental? “There’s beautiful music and an interesting storyline, and since KLCO is coming into its fifth year already, why not bring it back?” However, there’s more to look forward to this time, especially with critically-acclaimed virtuoso soprano Cecilia Yap coming onboard as vocal director and Colombian maestro Juan Montoya as principal conductor, together with award-winning stage director Christopher Ling. KLCO is also passionate about keeping to the authenticity of Puccini’s opera; that’s why the entire libretto will be staged in Italian, but with surtitles for the uninitiated. Ling says it may be difficult for audiences to interpret the opera without surtitles, but adds that the easiest ‘cheat’ in any performing arts programme is to allow the piece of music to ‘tell’ you to feel happy or sad – “it instantaneously gives you the signal”. Yap, who is familiar with Puccini’s music and speaks Italian as her second language, concurs. She says: “When it comes to Puccini’s music, it is so direct that just by listening to it, you can sense the kind of mood and emotion.” Yap is also impressed with the efforts of the all-Malaysian cast. She says: “They have to find the language’s [intonation] so that they can really deliver the result … Of course, some of them are not [familiar with] Italian, but at least, they put in the effort to try to speak and narrate fluently. “Malaysians have a lot of talents and through this production, I witness them growing tremendously vocally.” The size of the cast this time is relatively smaller compared to that of the original La Bohème. Co-executive producer Ho Soon Yoon explains that it is part of their effort to make the opera more intimate for the audience. “I think that’s part of the reason why [we have a smaller team] in KLCO, so we’re staying true to that idea,” he adds. The KLCO team is still trying to eliminate wrong presumptions about this performing art. Ling says often opera is seen as a performance mostly for the elite. He feels that one way to eradicate this common presumption is to make the artform more accessible to the public. “The threshold for understanding and appreciating opera is actually much lower because, ultimately, we are still telling stories; it’s just that the tools are different,” Ling adds. While both Ling and Yap agree that opera productions have been getting much positive reception among Malaysians in recent years, they acknowledge that more work needs to be done. Chen adds: “We are still trying to create the avenues and the platform for people to be able to enjoy the performances, and to reach out to as many individuals as possible.” Tickets for La Boheme are priced at RM128. For more, visit klpac’s website (www.klpac.org).