The lasting appeal of La bohème: by William Florescu

From the Stage Director

Puccini’s evergreen opera seems to be at the top of many people’s “favorites” list. However, unlike many things in life, familiarity seems to not breed contempt in the case of La Bohème. Why is this? Certainly, Puccini’s music has a lot to do with it, but I think it goes beyond that.

The themes that La Bohème touch upon connect to a zeitgeist that seems to not be limited to just one era or century. Broadway has had a big success with Rent, the musical based on Puccini’s opera, but I think a strong argument can be made that one does not needed an updated story, location, disease, or musical score to connect to this story. No altering is needed to understand four young artists chasing an ideal that seems always out of reach. And, how many of us cannot relate to being in desperate need of money, only to spend it in a splurge, just as the Bohemians do at the Café Momus on Christmas Eve?

But certainly, the heart of the story is love and its many facets – the first passionate love and ultimate loss that Mimi and Rodolfo experience, or the tempestuous, on again/off again relationship that Marcello and Musetta share. All of us, at one time or another, have felt these emotions. The story and music of La Bohème can make us choke up, whether we are recalling a lost and special romance, friend, parent, or even pet.

All of this can make it sound like I am minimizing the importance of Puccini’s music, but that is certainly not the case. I think one would be hard pressed to find a better example of words and music more perfectly wedded (with apologies to Wagner enthusiasts). This incredible wedding of music and story is the reason that when a company gathers to start rehearsals on this wonderful opera, you will never hear anyone say “oh, not another La Bohème!” On the contrary, you will find that everyone is anxious visit, for the first or hundredth time, these wonderful characters that reside, at some level, inside all of us.

Comments are closed.