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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Metropolitan Opera Preview: La bohème

Death, romance and the rooftops of Paris in Puccini's timeless opera.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
He ain't got nobody: Vittorio Grigolo returns to the role of Rodolfo in La bohème.
Photo by Marty Sohl © 2018 The Metropolitan Opera.
The Metropolitan Opera markets Puccini's fourth opera as "the most popular opera of all time." That may be debatable, but the show returns this year in Franco Zefirelli's elaborate and constantly rehabilitated production. As usual it is a proving ground for a young soprano as Nicole Car takes on the role of Mìmì.

What is La bohème?
This is an opera that has inspired romance, marriages, Moonstruck and the hit Broadway musical Rent. It was Puccini's first monster hit: a four-act deep dive into the lives of four artist friends and their tragedies, triumphs and tribulations living in Paris in the winter. It is a tragedy with comic elements and a healthy dose of doomed romance, and has been a success since its first performances.

What's La bohème about?
Four friends, a poet, a painter, a philosopher and a musician live in an attic apartment in Paris. The poet, Rodolfo falls in love with a seamstress, Mimi. Meanwhile, Marcello pursues an on-again-off-again relationship with the beautiful, fickle Musetta, a singer. In the last act, Mimi dies of tuberculosis.

What's the music like?
Everyone knows the story of this opera, and yet it is the music that remains its chief glory. In the first act, when Mimi enters, Puccini has tenor and soprano unleash a veritable flood-tide of memorable melodies that will stay with you all the way through the evening. These themes all come back in the final act, in a sad, minor-key form as Mimi meets her tragic fate.

Who's in it?
This year's run featured two casts. Soprano Nicole Car drives into the role of Mimi opposite the enthusiastic Vittorio Grigolo as Rodolfo. Starting in November, the second cast features Ailyn Perez and Michael Fabiano in an eagerly anticipated pairing. Angel Blue, who made a stirring 2017 debut as Mìmì, will sing Musetta. Etienne Despuis is Marcello in the first run, and Lucas Meachem takes the role in the second.

How's the production?
This is the biggest, most lavish and most elaborate show in the Met repertory and one of only two productions left designed by the legendary Italian director Franco Zeffirelli. A life-sized replica of Paris' Latin Quarter is the most memorable set (seen in Act II) but throughout you will see picture-postcard views of the City of Lights in all of its varied seasons.

Why should I see it?
Three reasons: you've never been to the opera before, you love Puccini's magnificent score and want to hear it artfully sung, you are on a spectacular date with someone you love or at least feel strongly about.

When does it open?
La bohème returns to the Met Sept. 25 for a run of performances through mid-October. The second cast takes the stage Nov. 29, adding some romance to the run-up to the holidays.

Where can I get tickets?
Tickets  are available through MetOpera.Org or by calling the box office at (212) 362-6000. You can save service fees by going to the box office in person at the Met itself, located at 30 Lincoln Center Plaza. Hours: Monday to Saturday: 10am-8pm, Sunday: 12pm-6pm.

Is there a Live in HD broadcast planned?
Not this season.

Which recording should I get?
For that information, it's time to visit and join Superconductor's Patreon page, and help support the cost of independent music journalism in New York City at the low cost of just $5/month.

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