The two pieces for the Prologue were "J'ai deux amours" and "Paris, Paris, Paris," both famous tunes that Baker is well-known for and typifies a strong love for the French capital. It was a delightful way to set the mood of Paris for the production, with the presence of a flea market, tourists milling about, street vendors and pickpockets. And through it all, an ailing woman listens to a phonograph of the music that my accordion duo played from the 1920s.
Later, I had the pleasure of repeating Musetta's famous aria "Quando" as an accordion solo played between the final two acts of the opera. Robert Jordan, for Opera Canada commented favourably saying that one of the most telling moments was myself playing this tune "lilting out a haunting version of "Musetta's Waltz." Very French; very Parisian.
In February 2019 I was fortunate to be chosen to play the accordion busker for a new production of La Boheme staged by the director and designer team, Renaud Doucet and Andre Barbe. The newly invented Prologue featured my playing of two Josephine Baker songs from the 1920s, here sung by the opera's character of Musetta (soprano, Sharleen Joynt). It was a pleasant surprise for audience members not to hear the customary opening of the orchestra that normally begins the opera, but instead they were treated to the wonderful strains of my accordion playing.
And pictured here, you can see me taking my bows (left) along with all the principals too. What a rare and fabulous opportunity to play for this opera!