Modernized version of ‘La Bohème’ kicks off Opera Steamboat’s summer this weekend |

Modernized version of ‘La Bohème’ kicks off Opera Steamboat’s summer this weekend

Omar Najmi in the part of Rodolfo consults Maestro Ernest Richardson during rehearsal of La Bohème, which will show at Strings Music Pavilion on Saturday, June 18.
Opera Steamboat/Courtesy photo

In honor of its 20th anniversary, Opera Steamboat selected the iconic opera La Bohème to launch the 2022 summer festival series at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 18, at the Strings Music Pavilion. 

“We wanted to make the season something that would be really memorable,” said Jenny Maxwell, chair of Opera Steamboat’s board of trustees.

The opera, originally set in the 1830s in Paris, follows the lives and complex relationships of a group of struggling bohemian artists throughout four acts.

“La Bohème has enthralled audiences for over a century with soaring, passionate music, and a compelling, ultimately tragic story of the struggles, loves and loss,” according to a news release from Opera Steamboat.

But this upcoming performance will feature a twist — instead of the show’s traditional setting, director David Toro has set the story in San Francisco in the early 1970s. 

“The early 70s seemed like a good time, because it parallels somewhat politically to the original setting of the story,” Toro said.

Both eras were periods of tumultuous transition, with sweeping expectations of change, he added. 

If you go:

What: Steamboat Opera’s “La Bohème”

When: Saturday, June 18, 7 p.m.

Where: Strings Pavilion at 950 Strings Rd


“It seemed like a good place for our bohemian best friends to set up shop,” Toro said.

The characters will be clad in jeans, t-shirts, flowy dresses and other era-appropriate attire, he said, making the story even more accessible to modern audiences.

Ernest Richardson, music director and conductor of the Steamboat Symphony Orchestra, is the maestro for Opera Steamboat’s La Bohème.

“It’s such a great opera and the music is stunning,” Richardson said. “Our cast is just unbelievably beautiful, so we’re having a great time putting this together.”

He explained that the impassioned music of the show combines with the dramatic relationships between the characters to resonate with audiences.

“You really feel it on a granular, emotional level,” Richardson added.

In addition to professional singers from across the country, the show’s cast will include younger artists participating in the Opera Artist Institute, a training program run by Opera Steamboat in which 40% of participants are students of color, according to Maxwell.

“That’s very intentional on our part,” she said. “A value for our organization is equity, diversity and inclusion.”

Maxwell added that Opera Steamboat is working to make opera more accessible to audiences as well as aspiring artists.

“It’s really the art of the people,” Toro said. “All are welcome. People should come and experience it.”

Closed captioning will accompany the show, he added, so the audience can understand the lyrics of the music despite being sung in the original Italian.

Omar Najmi, who will be playing the male lead Rodolfo, said he was thrilled for the show and that he has long wanted to perform in the show.

“The story is just so universal,” Najmi said. “The music really tells the story.”

“This is a dream role for me, and it’s my first time doing it,” he added.

Maxwell added that in addition to La Bohème, Opera Steamboat has a performance from their Variations Piano Series showcase on June 21 and an Arias and Ensembles Concert June 24.

Tickets for La Bohème range from $10-60, and can be purchased at

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