It’s no surprise that La Bohème is one of the most beloved operas in the world. The power and beauty of its music captures the essence of opera. It just carries you away. I can’t imagine anyone seeing any performance of La Bohème anywhere and not be transported by it. Those of us who experienced Lyric’s La Bohème, had all that and even more.
If you can go, I highly recommend attending the pre-opera lecture which is offered free and begins one hour before curtain. Our mentor/host for the pre-opera lecture was WFMT’s Carl Grapentine. Think about this: even though Carl is a radio host, we recognized him and greeted him with a warm round of applause when he entered the Ardis Krainik Theatre of the Civic Opera House. We knew him and we knew we were in for a treat.
Not surprisingly, Carl was exceptional. He gave us insider information about Puccini’s creative process in shaping Mimì’s character, as well as fascinating insights into the music and dramatization of other Mimìs such as Renata Scotto. He delivered a delicious helping of opera magic before that iconic curtain even went up. Here are some highlights:
An opera in four acts, La Bohème was composed by Giacomo Puccini, Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, and based on Scènes de la vie de bohème by Henri Murger. The world premiere performance of La Bohème was in Turin in 1896 and conducted by the young Arturo Toscanini. In 1946, fifty years after the opera's premiere, Toscanini conducted a performance of it on radio with the NBC Symphony Orchestra. This performance is the only recording of a Puccini opera by its original conductor.
If you would like to introduce a young boy or girl to opera, this is where to start. She/he’ll be hooked. Love at first sight never was more romantic. See for yourself. Here’s a link to the glorious trailer:
As a matter of fact, during the intermission of La Bohème, I met a beautiful 9-year old girl named Miriam whose eyes sparkled with the joy of experiencing La Bohème live at the Lyric. Not surprisingly, Miriam said she might even want to be called Mimì.
Luckily, La Bohème has been scheduled for a long run. Therefore, the main characters will be double cast: Rodolpho: Dimitri Pittas (Jan.-Feb. dates)/Joseph Calleja (March dates); Mimì: Ana Maria Martinez (Jan.-Feb. dates)/Anna Netrebko (March dates).
Most certainly, the glory of opera is its music. But it is the power of the production that frames, enhances and elevates it. The Director of La Bohème, Louisa Muller, made her Lyric debut with this elaborate, superb production. Michael Yeargan’s sets captured the era, the pathos and the temperature (all that snow!) so realistically, it was easy to get lost in the story. And Emmanuel Villaume’s conducting assured the precision of every note.
Especially if you have never been to the opera, this is the place to start. La Bohème will win your heart just as surely as she won Rodolfo’s.
La Bohème by Giacomo Puccini
In Italian with projected English texts.
Running time: 2h 21m
For more information go to: http://www.lyricopera.org
Photos: Dan Rest/Lyric Opera ofChicago