OperaUpClose’s record-breaking production of La Boheme will transfer this summer from its 60-seat home at the new Cock Tavern in Kilburn to the 140-seat, West End-based Soho Theatre, where it will run for five weeks from 27 July to 4 September 2010.

After numerous extensions, by the time La Boheme finishes its sell-out season at the Cock Tavern on 15 May 2010, it will have run for five months (opened on 8 December 2009), making it the longest continuously performed production of Puccini’s opera in history. The transfer is also significant as it will be the first opera ever staged at Soho Theatre, and the first transfer for both the Cock, which was only founded in January 2009, and for OperaUpClose, which was inaugurated with this production.

In the new translation by Robin Norton-Hale, the 1896 classic is relocated from 1830s Paris to modern-day London. Beginning on Christmas Eve, La Boheme revolves around Mimi and Rodolfo, profoundly in love but unable to find a way to make their relationship work. Mimi has moved to England from Romania and is working as a cleaner. She lives alone in a bedsit, amid a group of middle-class boys who are indulging in a carefree, artistic, Bohemian lifestyle; spending the little money they have on nights out and parties. When Rodolfo falls for Mimi, the group discover the complexity of living for love and art.

La Boheme is directed by Norton-Hale, with musical direction by Andrew Charity, and set and costume design by Kate Guinness and Lucy Read. OperaUpClose was formed by Adam Spreadbury-Maher to “bring opera to life for new audiences and to offer the extraordinary opportunity to experience the dramatic and musical event of opera up close”.

Spreadbury-Maher is also the artistic director of the Cock Tavern and was recently appointed artistic director of a second Off-West End powerhouse, the King’s Head in Islington, where he’ll begin programming in the autumn (See Off-West End News, 2 Mar 2010). OperaUpClose is the resident opera company at both theatres.

Commenting on the transfer, Soho executive director Mark Godfrey said: “OperaUpClose’s groundbreaking new translation of La Boheme makes a very contemporary, very London piece. It’s the first opera to be staged at Soho Theatre and, just as Kilburn played a big part in the production there, Soho too will provide a perfect setting for the story. We’re enormously excited to be bringing it to Soho Theatre and hope it will further broaden the audience for this vital and record-breaking production.”

Spreadbury-Maher added: “I am honoured to be bringing La Boheme to Soho Theatre, the first transfer from the Cock Tavern into another venue. I’m extremely proud of what all my team here have achieved, particularly as we have only been running for a year. I think it’s a great demonstration of what can be accomplished with an in-house producing model, particularly in a tiny, unfunded theatre like ours. If the work is good, it gets recognised, and an enterprising theatre like the Soho can give it further life, bringing it to a larger London audience.”

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