Fans of classic opera are excited about the return of Puccini’s La Bohème, one of the most popular in the repertoire.
The plot is fairly simple: Set in Paris, around 1830, four Bohemians – Rodolfo, Marcello, Schaunard, and Colline, are living poor but happy in their various roles as poet, painter, musician and philosopher. One night they plan to go to a bar, but Rodolfo stays behind to finish a poem. Mimi, a neighbour, comes by and asks him to light her candle, but Rodolfo’s candle goes out. Mimi drops her key, they touch and … fall in love.
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In Act 2, Rodolfo introduces Mimi to his friends and, joined by Marcello’s lover, Musetta, the six celebrate Christmas Eve.
In Act 3, Mimi visits Musetta and Marcello and confides that Rodolfo’s love interest has suddenly cooled. Then Rodolfo arrives, and as Mimi is hiding, he confesses he loves Mimi, but is worried she has tuberculosis. He is too poor to buy her medicine, and wants to end the medicine relationship. She emerges from hiding and they decide to live separately.
In Act 4, the happy life of the four Bohemians is interrupted when Musetta brings the dying Mimi into the room. She wants to die in Rodolfo’s arms, and as his friends try to find money to buy her medicine, Rodolfo and Mimi recall the time when their love was fresh and passionate. The friends return, but it’s too late: Rodolfo utters Mimi’s name, breaks down, and weeps.
The music is stunning: As Igor Stravinsky has said, “When you listen to Puccini’s music, it is even more beautiful than the time before.”
Soprano France Bellemare, winner of last year’s Concours musical international de Montréal, portrays Mimi; Tenor Luc Robert, who recently made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera, is Rodolfo. The other singers include soprano Lucia Cesaroni (Musetta), baritone Justin Welsh (Marcello), Christoper Dunham (Schaunard), and bass-baritone Alexandre Sylvestre (Colline).
The production’s overall director is Alain Gauthier, set design by Olivier Landreville, lighting by Claude Accolas, with James Meena leading the Orchestre Métropolitain and costumes from the Opéra de Montréal.
The opera is in the original Italian, with English and French supertitles.
For a free, 90-minute discussion of the opera in English, with a break, join musicologist Pierre Vachon at Victoria Hall on Sherbrooke St. in Westmount on Sunday, May 14, 10:30 am. Tickets starting at $20 are available at 514-842-2212, or 1-866-842-2112, or at operademontreal.com/en.tickets/tickets
In an Opéra de Montréal first, the final performance on Saturday, May 27, will be simulcast and presented on five giant screens at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium, with free tickets for up to 15,000 fans.
They are being offered, on a first come first served basis, online, at the Opéra de Montréal website,