ChiIL Live Shows on our radar
Lyric Opera of Chicago
Through January 31st, 2019
by catherine hellmann
“It is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.”-- Rodolfo in “La Boheme.” Actually, those words were written by Alfred Lord Tennyson. But our hero, Rodolfo could have easily stated them as well.
You know how when you read a particular novel and it speaks to you in the manner of your current frame of mind? If you need hope, perhaps the book provides inspiration; if you are feeling nostalgic from a setback, the same book at a different time can seem poignant. I love how opera can stir up similar reactions in life’s journey. So is my attachment to the beautiful “La Boheme” by Puccini.
The last time I saw a production of Lyric’s “La Boheme,” I was struck by the overall sadness of the piece, the poverty, the struggles of the artists, Mimi’s chronic cough and eventual death. Downer, dude. Gorgeous music, of course, but oh so melancholy. (Did I mention I just had a miscarriage? Yeah, I was in a tough place…) Fast forward twenty years, and the healthy baby boy I eventually went on to have is now a Sophomore in college, and life is good. Hmmm...I did not realize how utterly charming and humorous Act I of “La Boheme” could be! Opera as litmus test! No wonder this is the opera that Nicholas Cage takes Cher to in Moonstruck. The story and score are swoon-worthy.
Lyric Opera has assembled a marvelous international cast for its current “La Boheme.” Italian Maria Agresta as Mimi and American Michael Fabiano as Rodolfo are adorable flirting together and wowed us with their vocal theatrics this past fall at Millennium Park. Musetta is performed with relish for the role by Australian soprano Danielle De Niese; her Musetta is feisty, sexy, funny, and ultimately very empathetic with a compassionate heart. Her seduction aria to make Marcello jealous places her on a table in a restaurant while she removes her panties to place on his head, something we don’t see often in opera! Zachary Nelson as her on-and-off-again lover Marcello is her match.
The sets and costumes are wonderful, especially the market scene with the crowds, including the Chicago Children’s Choir, out bustling, shopping for toys, perfumes, and corsets. I love the snow constantly falling as a reminder of how pretty snow can be when it is not dirty slush on the streets of Chicago!
And oh, that lovely music! Venezuelan conductor Domingo Hindoyan states that the first time he heard the entire score, “I was in love with every bar.” It is easy to see why. As my guy, who was seeing his first opera, observed,”It is a beautiful tragedy. Rodolfo’s heart is broken, but he has peace.” Rather than running away by breaking up with an obviously ailing Mimi, Rodolfo confesses his deep love for her and is with her to her last breath.
My favorite line in the libretto sums it all up: “You are the dream I’d like to last a lifetime.”
Catherine Hellmann is a teacher, writer, and theater junkie. She has tried to inspire urban and rural middle schoolers for over twenty years. A mother of three, she is thrilled to once again claim Chicago as home.
Puccini's story of love, loss and the artistic world of 19th-century Paris comes to vibrant life in this stunning production at Lyric Opera of Chicago. A huge hit when it premiered it in 1896, the opera's popularity and power hasn't dimmed since. Featuring strikingly designed sets and costumes, not to mention an exciting cast of singers, including Maria Agresta, Michael Fabiano, Danielle de Niese, Zachary Nelson and more, La bohème finds the poor poet Rodolfo and the painter Marcello drawn into a tangle of love and jealousy after the frail Mimi knocks on their door. These youthful dreamers navigate the complicated maze of romance amid the colorful Bohemian enclaves of the city and its snowy streets, until they realize they can no longer hide from the world's harsh realities.
Click here for Lyric Opera's site, for more information and ticket sales