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'Follies' and 'La Boheme' take Los Angeles by storm

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Joe Kohen/AP Images for Los Angeles Opera

(Read caption) The cast of 'La Boheme' features husband-and-wife team Stephen Costello and Ailyn Perez.

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The elegant Los Angeles Opera production of the consummate classic “La Boheme,” anchoring one end of the downtown Los Angeles Music Center, is matched at the far end by a classic in the making, the sumptuous and much-lauded revival of Stephen Sondheim’s 1971 groundbreaking “Follies.”

The yin-yang contrast of these two vibrant musical events throws a neat spotlight on both the forces that keep a chestnut fresh and the challenges facing a work that is only belatedly being recognized as a theater landmark.

Both shows are constructed around the trials of two couples in the throes of passion and  inevitability. In La Boheme, of course, Mimi’s impending death becomes the engine for Giacomo Puccini’s rhapsodically romantic melodies, tunes that have left audiences humming for more than a century. In the case of Sondheim’s angst-filled duos, the clash of adult reality falling short of youthful dreams becomes the setting for two hours of what many at its debut thought was the demise of the American musical.

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