If you have seen the Rock Opera Rent, then it is time to step up to La Bohème, the opera by Giacomo Puccini that inspired it. Puccini himself was inspired by a book by Henry Müger’s :“Scènes de la Vie de Bohème.” If you have not seen “Rent”, then you might want to do so after you see La Bohème. Loosely translated it means The Bohemian, a word that has now fallen out of daily use, but whose meaning is still hanging around in tenements in all the great cities of the world. The story of La Bohème is a classic love story with a counterpoint of the more realistic love story of two people who constantly fight and split up and then get back together again over and over. The characters are the poor creative poets, artists, musicians and such of 19th century Paris but they transcend time and space, as we see them off Broadway in New York, on the fringes of Hollywood, and at the edge of the Miami art scene. In fact, they are everywhere.
Some people shy away from opera, thinking that it is the music of their grandparents, and it was, but there is a reason it is still around.
It is beautiful, fulfilling, even thrilling.
Many of the world’s most popular contemporary songs borrow from the melodies of opera, but they pale in comparison with wonderful full voices paired with the rich sound of full orchestra. It is a treat for the ears. You also need not worry that you do not understand Italian, since the translation is projected on a bar over the stage, making it easy to follow the story.
Today’s opera has changed also in the performers. They are young and gorgeous, yet still have voices that can positively enchant an audience. Opera Tampa’s production is no different, with the handsome tenor, Richard Troxell. He could flutter hearts on any beach and his eyes glitter with humor. But he has sung on the most famous stages around the world, and he plays the lead, Rodolfo. His leading lady, Mimi, will be play and sung by the lovely dark-eyed Marianne Fiset, a relative newcomer to the scene, but who has been the focus of great acclaim in Vancouver and Montreal, and even public radio. Her rich soprano voice has been heard in both the Kennedy and Lincoln Centers in New York and many other choice venues. She won the 2008 Young Artist of the Year Opus Prize, among many other honors. James Westman performs as Marcello filling the theatre with his warm full baritone. This youthful Canadian has toured all the best venues from coast to coast and around the globe.
The fourth of the main characters, Musetta, is played by the lovely blue-eyed blonde star from Vienna, Ella Tyran, who fills out the core cast with a strong soprano. The cast is rounded out with Jonathan Silvia, Michael Weyandt, Peter Strummer, Joel Mercer, and Jeffrey Hartman, and backed up by the beautifully balanced Opera Tampa Chorus directed by Dr. James K. Bass. The play is directed by the talented Frank Van Laecke, and internationally acclaimed Daniel Lipton serves as artistic director and conducts the Opera Tampa Orchestra. More can be learned about all of the performers, the talented back stage crew, the composer and the opera in the program or on the Opera Tampa site.
The music of La Bohème is different
even for Puccini, and he was different from most composers of the time. In fact, La Bohème opened to very lukewarm reviews, but it has stood the test of time and is now one of the most performed operas in the world. The music hold s a theme throughout the opera, with stirring and catchy melodies reminiscent of much of the more common folk tunes of his time. For this reason, this opera is one of the best to introduce new audiences to opera, as it is one of the most accessible. The music carries its own story, sets the mood of each scene perfectly, and the singing sounds conversational, as should be in an ideal opera. Some of the tunes are quite catchy and all of the music is something one might walk away humming.
Tickets are currently on sale for three performances from March 7-10th at the Carol Morsani Hall, and are very affordable. Ticket scalping is not tolerated, since this is a non-profit organization. Treat an opera lover you know or help create new ones, so that more can be offered in future. This music has already lived for centuries and it is never lip-synched, but you will recognize the melodies in lots of popular contemporary music. If you already love opera support it. If you are a newcomer, then enjoy and pass it on.