It's Christmas in April with 'Boheme'!
Christmas Eve in Paris in the 1840s. A poet, a painter, a philosopher and a musician – all “starving artists” – share a cold, tiny garret in the Latin Quarter. They have not met their neighbor, the poor seamstress Mimi.
This begins La Boheme (Bohemian Life), a four act opera by Italian composer Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924), which was premiered in Turin, Italy on February 1, 1896, under the baton of the famous Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini. The libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica was based on Henry Murger’s Scenes de la vie die boheme, which existed both as a novel, originally published in serial form and as a play (1845) in collaboration with Theodore Barriere. Present-day theater goers may have seen the Broadway show Rent on the same theme.
La Boheme is the live in high definition transmission from the Metropolitan Opera to select theaters around the world this Saturday, April 5, at 12:55 pm. Sung in Ialian with English subtitles, the opera will have an approximate runtime of 3 1/2 hours. Opera lovers in West Virginia may view the simulcast at the Cinemark Theater at the Huntington Mall in Barboursville; Regal Nitro Stadium 12; and Hollywood Stadium 12 in Granville/Morgantown, as well as at the Cinemark Theater in Ashland.
Tenor Vittorio Grigolo will sing the role of the poet Rodolfo and soprano Anita Hartig will sing the role of the heroine Mimi. Baritone Massimo Cavalletti will sing the role of Marcello, a painter, and soprano Suzanna Phillips will sing the role of Musetta, Marcello’s girlfriend. The role of the philosopher Colline will be sung by bass Oren Gradus, and the role of the musician Schaunard will be sung by the bass-baritone Patrick Carifizzi.
“For more than 30 years, the known quality of attending Puccini’s La Boheme at the Metropolitan Opera has been Franco Zeffirelli’s colorful, minutely detailed and popular production ... The realistic setting shows Mr. Zeffirelli at his most theatrical and inventive.” (Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times)
The best known arias from La Boheme include Rodolpho’s aria in Act I, “Che gelida manina” when he introduces himself to Mini, and her response to Rodolpho with “Si, mi chiamano Mimi” (“Yes, they call me Mimi”). In Act II, at the Café Momus, the spirited Musetta sings “Quando me’n vo soletta per la via, la gente sosta e mira” (“When I walk down the street all by myself, people stop and stare”) – Musetta’s very own personal waltz theme! In Act IV, to pay for a doctor, Musetta decides to sell her earrings and Colline sings farewell to his overcoat (“Vecchia zimarra”).
Puccini assigns melodies or fragments of them to identify some of his characters. Warm melodies and poignant melodrama make for a moving musical score. The heroine dies tragically and the tenor collapses in tears – one of the most tear-jerking of all operatic ending, bringing the audience to tears as well.
With a “balance of realism and romanticism, of comedy and pathos”, La Boheme has become a standard in the sentimental operatic repertoire. I would particularly recommend it to first-time opera-goers.
An encore performance will be shown on Wednesday, April 9, at 6:30 pm.
Dr. Larry Stickler is a professor of music at Marshall University.