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European-American Topics - Culture - La Bohème

Must-see performance at the Seattle Opera: La Bohème
By Noelle Rivera
Posted May 16, 2007


Gun-Brit Barkmin (Mimì, on bed) with Michael Todd Simpson (Marcello), Ashraf Sewailam (Colline), Marcus DeLoach (Schaunard), and Scott Piper (Rodolfo). © Rozarii Lynch


La Bohème, a tragic operatic performance of love and desire, is currently showcased at the Seattle Opera in McCaw Hall.

The Italian composer Giacomo Puccini first debuted his masterpiece in 1896 in Turin, Italy. Since then La Bohème has become the second most performed opera in North America. The four acts are based on a collection of stories written by Henri Murger that revealed the realities of the Bohemian life in Paris.

The opera opens up in the starving artists’ Marcello and Rodolfo’s Parisian quarters. It is Christmas Eve and being broke and confined in the extreme cold, they are subject to burning Rudolph’s manuscript in exchange for the brief warmth of the fire. Their bohemian friend Schaunard arrives with money he gained from outwitting a rich Englishman and suggests a celebration at Café Momus. Rodolfo promises to meet them after he completes his work. Soon after there is a knock at his door, his neighbor, Mimi, needs her candle lit. While leaving Mimi realizes she has dropped her key, the two search for it and both candles blow out. In the dark they share their aspirations and dreams and in a moment, fall in love.

In Act Two, Rodolfo brings his new love, Mimi, to the Café to meet his friends. At dinner, Marcello encounters his former lover, Musetta, alongside a wealthy man. Although the two are no longer, their longing for each other is still expressed. Musetta complains her shoes are pinching and sends her new lover to fetch another pair. While he is gone, Marcello and Musetta fall into one another’s arms once again.

Act Three takes place on a sparkling, snowy set in the outskirts of Paris. Mimi travels to the new home of Marcello and Musetta to express her misery over Rodolfo’s unhappiness in their relationship. Rodolfo then expresses to Marcello his devastation of Mimi dying and that he is financially unable to support her. Rodolfo and Mimi both suggest it is best for them to part. They begin to recall their memories of happiness and decide to stay together until spring.

In Act Four, Rodolfo and Marcello are back in the home they shared together, both lonely once again. Musetta explodes through the door saying Mimi is too weak to climb the stairs as she is attempting to find her never forgotten lover. Rodolfo rushes to her side, cares for her and they recall the wonderful days they spent together. Once again, they express their longing for one another and their inability to be apart. In his presence, Mimi dies and Rodolfo is overcome with colossal pain.

Each act is fabulously set upon ornate sets that bring the story into reality and vast emotion is conveyed through the mastered voices—the love and longing is deeply felt through the cast into the audience.

La Boheme is a must see performance. Puccini’s opera was originally scheduled for 10 performances, but due to high demand the Seattle Opera has added performances on May 18 and May 20.


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