In honour of David Letterman’s retirement announcement and Manitoba Opera’s current production of the perennial classic, CBC’s opera reviewer Al Rae gives a handful of good reason to see La Bohème in Winnipeg.
5. It’s literally in the top five.
Operabase.com the authority on operatic number crunching lists Puccini’s fourth opera as the third most produced opera in the world (after Verdi’s La Traviata and Bizet’s Carmen). Also in the top ten are Puccini’s Tosca and Madame Butterfly. When it comes to spinning hits and magic melodies Puccini is opera’s answer to The Beatles.
4. It’s for the rest of us.
Forget the one-percenters in their mink stoles and fancy limos, La Bohème is a gift to the everyman. No Viking helmets or beheadings. La Bohème does have a classic death scene but its touching and doesn’t take an hour. The story of two dirt poor artists and the women they love is a late nineteenth century Friends. The opera is in the verismo (realistic) style with natural sets and costumes to match. And the more snobbish critics hated it when it first debuted in 1896, which gives us even more reason to adore every minute of the gorgeous tale.
3. A Winter’s Tale.
The great Russian works aside, opera for the most part is a sunny business. But La Bohème starts on Christmas Eve and Act III unfolds outside on a freezing February morning. The plight of the bohemian heroes struggling to survive in a frozen climate is one we can all relate to. Spoiler alert: It’s hard to imagine there won’t be a good natured snicker or two over the subject matter of the beautiful third act duet. Rudolfo and Mimi having postponed their break up until spring, romantically pine for winter to last forever. No-one in real life is that in love, are they?
2. K.I.S.S (keep it simple stupid)
You don’t need some professor with a flip chart guiding you through a maze like plot in La Bohème. It’s the simplest and oldest story ever. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back, boy loses girl. And there’s a few side plots including the parallel love story of Musetta and Marcello and the humorous and sometimes touching behavior of Colline the philosopher and Shaunard the musician. All a good excuse to enjoy some of the most beautiful and sensual music ever composed.
1. Acoustic singing
Sure, seeing the Met in HD broadcasts at the cinema is a thing to behold, but nothing beats seeing opera live on stage; as music from the most beautiful and oldest instrument of all, the human voice is created moment after moment in front of our ears and eyes. And La Bohème is lovely to look at too with its Parisian Latin Quarter setting, which for this production is set as Puccini intended in the 1830’,s with all the gorgeous clothes and colours that come along with the era. Not to mention one final (hopefully) snowfall magically created inside.
Manitoba Opera presents La Bohème at Centennial Concert Hall April 5, 8 and 11.