A welcome encore

Young artists living the poor, bohemian life.

A flirtation involving a woman named Mimi that takes place over candle that won’t stay lit.

A death too young from the disease of the era.

No, no one will be singing about 525,600 minutes at Stambaugh Auditorium on Friday. Instead, Opera Western Reserve will present Giacomo Puccini’s “La Boheme,” the opera that inspired the Broadway musical “Rent.”

David Vosburgh, general manager and production director for the company, doesn’t know whether the parallels between the two shows will get some Broadway fans to take a chance on opera.

“I’ll probably be able to answer that question Saturday morning,” he said.

However, Opera Western Reserve’s schools program featured singers performing excerpts from both shows and talking about the parallels.

And “La Boheme” may not need the help.

“It is the most popular and most performed of all operas,” Vosburgh said. “The story and the music are very romantic, and the story is very passionate and beautiful. It seems to resonate with them.”

Susan Davenny Wyner, music director for the production agrees.

“(Puccini) was after something that captured real, simple people and showed what mattered,” she said. “He didn’t want to use any of the standard, grand opera format. He wanted them to be seen as real people and find a way to contrast the friendship and fun and desperation that these young men have as they are poor and trying to scrabble out a living together. It’s just extraordinary how the music serves that purpose.”

Opera Western Reserve staged “La Boheme” nine years ago, its second year in existence. Vosburgh said there are advantages to directing a show a second time. The knowledge from the first experience carries over and allows him to go deeper and explore certain nuances of the story. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s easier.

“Every opera has its own problems, and ‘La Boheme’ is huge – a large chorus, three sets, one of which repeats at the end, so you have to set the stage four times,” he said. “And it’s a prop nightmare. It’s probably the biggest opera we do in terms of physical production.”

“La Boheme” features a company of more than 60 people, including soloists, the orchestra and chorus. And several of the soloists will be familiar to audience members from past productions.

Miriam Vogel (Mimi), Alex Richardson (Rodolfo) and Cortland native Michael Young (Marcello) all appeared in 2011’s production of “Tosca,” and Hubbard native Jason Budd (Colline) appeared in last year’s production of “The Barber of Seville.”

Other soloists include Lauren Frey, Joel Herold, Patrick Niess, Rhea Olivacce, Robert Pierce, John Watson, William Andrews and James Binion.

“These singers who come to sing with us are wonderful,” Wyner said. “We’re getting requests from people from all over the country, and it feels as though we’re doing something right, even though the budget is small.”