A cast of professionals, aspiring professionals and amateurs who often shine with professional luster comprise the cast of the Salt Lake Opera Theatre's "La Boheme," and they are presenting the classic (100 years old in 1996) in simple but attractive staging and costuming, with full orchestra and with feeling.Perhaps "La Boheme" is the world's most beloved and durable opera; a work of such humanity, beauty, charm and pathos that it exerts an undying hold over almost every opera lover. After several decades of opera-going, I can tick off 10 over-exposed operas that I wouldn't walk across the street to hear again. But mention "La Boheme" and I'm off with renewed vitality to track the course of these Bohemian lovers through the Latin Quarter of Paris - their ecstasy, their squabbles, their tragedy.

Salt Lake Opera Theatre stages this work with the right, comprehending touch of maturity. And SLOT fills a niche in the musical life of the city - a place where good singers with great love for opera have the opportunity to be as professional as they can.

Valentine Aguirre, the Basque tenor who has won many admirers in Utah with his beautiful, strong voice, comes from New York City to sing a wonderful Rudolfo. The sound is full, clear and fresh, and he takes full artistic advantage of his big arias, duos and ensembles.

Heidi Sonya Bloyer is a fine, pathetic Mimi, with a pretty voice that suggests the fragility of the little seamstress, yet carries beautifully. Soprano Elizabeth Paniagua sings Musetta with flourish and bravado, taking charge and dominating the Cafe Momus happenings with promising temperament.

Robert Van Wagenen is a wonder - a mature singer who will not allow his vocal technique to slip away, and his Marcello is physically youthful and vocally attractive. Terry Summerhays makes a hale and hearty Schaunard, Joseph Onstatt is a pleasant Colline, though he needs more vocal personality, and John Klint fills in as Benoit and Alcindoro.

Bob Zabriskie's operatic instincts and love for the art are the spark plug behind all this activity, and they are right on in this production. His tempos, dynamics and phrasing are excellent, and he pulls a surprisingly good performance from the SLOT orchestra.

Now if he could only do it with a few less decibels. I've said it before and I'll say it again - the orchestra is always too loud in the climaxes at SLOT, and even though the amplification of singers is sufficient and smooth, that's no excuse to turn the orchestra loose unbridled.

Staging by Columb Robinson is minimal but effective. More horseplay among the Bohemians is expected, cuts were made in the Cafe Momus and the action simplified, and some traditional business is not observed throughout. But you can easily credit all this to the expediencies of producing opera on a shoestring, and the general effect is sufficient and sincere. Better too little than messy attempts that don't come off; and the whole production hangs together and flows commendably.

In sum, SLOT is a good place for the opera lover to find productions that never fall below the level of respectability, and are often genuinely beautiful and affecting, as in the present case.