Notre Dame de Namur University and Pocket Opera Present “La Boheme”

Love lost and found in contemporary Paris is the setting of Puccini’s stunning opera “La Boheme,” presented by San Francisco’s Pocket Opera and its training program, Pocket Opera at Notre Dame, July 26 at 7:30 p.m. at the NDNU Theatre.

Puccini’s fourth opera, with music by Giacomo Puccini and libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacoso, revolves around a community of artists in Paris, and the romantic relationship between poet Rodolfo and ill-fated Mimi. The production strives to make Puccini’s story more accessible to contemporary audiences by staging the opera in modern dress, and in Donald Pippin’s English setting.

Notre Dame de Namur University and Donald Pippin’s Pocket Opera of San Francisco have been partners in opera productions and training since 2004, with their first joint production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. The collaboration has since grown, as they’ve recently created “Pocket Opera at Notre Dame,” (POND) a structured performance, training, and academic program for aspiring young singers, music directors, and vocal coach/accompanists.

Director Debra Lambert has set the opera in contemporary Paris, rather than the 19th century. “If the people onstage look like us, we understand them better–they’re real, not people in a fairy tale,” said Lambert, also Chair of NDNU’s Department of Music and Vocal Arts. “We have beautiful young people– singing the roles of beautiful young people, it’s lovely to see how “Rent’s” popularity has emerged from this story.”

At the end of the opera, the star-crossed lovers, whose romance is full of conflict, are tragically reunited as the heroine, Mimi, returns to the bohemian garret and dies. “This is one of the most beloved of Puccini’s operas and one of the most heartbreaking I find,” said Pippin, who is enthusiastic about continuing his opera company’s collaboration with NDNU.

The tiered POND program includes the “Pocket Opera Studio,” an apprentice vocal performance program for graduate students on the brink of a career, and the “Pippin Opera Workshop,” a training opportunity for undergraduate and less experienced vocalists. NDNU students rehearse and perform in a true apprenticeship with Pocket Opera’s professionals on the NDNU campus, at the Florence Gould Theatre in San Francisco and at the historic Napa Valley Opera House. Young singers provide performance and dance skills to the company, and receive academic credit for their work as part of their curriculum for graduation. NDNU provides additional creative support to Pocket Opera with stage directors, music director/pianists, and costume design from the faculty, and stage management and crew assistance from qualified students.

“Our mutual mission is to present opera that communicates to contemporary audiences, to provide professional level training, apprenticeship, and performing opportunities for young singing actors, and to develop new audiences for opera through community outreach and education,” said Lambert.

Pocket Opera was born 30 years ago at the Old Spaghetti Factory in North Beach, San Francisco, presenting the great operas in its own unique style. Pippin has translated approximately 80 operas into English, presenting each story in the clearest manner possible. He has said that there is “a whole category of opera where, if you don’t know the story on the way to the theater, you won’t know it on the way home, either.” Pippin’s translations bring the works to life, and Pocket Opera has been presenting his translations to the Bay Area since 1978. Using accomplished vocalists, a small chamber orchestra, and minimal costumes and props, the company offers accessible opera of the highest quality for contemporary audiences.

The NDNU Voice and Opera faculty is made up of Pocket Opera veteran performers and young artists who understand the mission and accomplishment of Pocket Opera. Company Founder and Artistic Director Donald Pippin serves as advisor and mentor. Voice/Opera faculty: Marcelle Dronkers, soprano; Debra Lambert, mezzo; Lee Strawn, baritone; Eric Morris, tenor; Justin Taylor Nixon, tenor; and Patricia Urbano, soprano.

Tickets cost $25 general admission, $15 students and seniors. For more information, contact NDNU’s Department of Music and Vocal Arts at (650) 508-3729 or e-mail The NDNU Theatre is located on the University campus at 1500 Ralston Avenue in Belmont.