La Bohème Hits Dallas
Tonight, La Bohème opens its six-show run at The Dallas Opera, and I could not be more excited! Show dates are March 15, 17, 20, 23, 29, 31, 2019 (learn more and buy tickets HERE). If you saw my last post, you know that I have been a fan of opera since I was nine years old, and that I was recently elected to the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of the Dallas Opera. Over the next year or so I will be writing posts like this one that pick out little moments and reasons I think opera is so cool.
La Bohème is one of the most performed operas in the world each and every year. While I may get into a ranking of current opera in the future, suffice it to say that La Bohème is really, really popular. Like so popular that the musical Rent was based on it. [Side Note: Yes this opera was written in the late 1800’s and yes the main character is named Mimi and yes her candle goes out and the whole show leaps from there… seriously, if you love Rent, you will love this opera].
So there is a bunch of information on the show and the plot floating around online. One of the things The Dallas Opera does is create 3 or 4 minute videos explaining the story of the opera in a funny way. Here you go because I am sure you don’t want to go dig around the internet to find it.
But this post isn’t about the plot of La Bohème or how it is funny, then sweet, then so very sad. This post is about something I heard David Lomeli, Director of Artistic Administration (and a trained opera singer himself who has performed Bohème many, many times) say at a recent reception before a rehearsal. He said, and I am paraphrasing here, that unlike movies and books and other media, knowing the story, how it occurs, and how it ends is an important part of enjoying the opera. For completeness sake, I will also say that not everyone shares that view, but it made me think if I agree with that.
The short answer is yes, I do. Spoilers don’t count when the show has been on for a while, and in the case of Bohème, the show has been on since 1896. If you think someone getting all huffy about hearing the end of Lost would be silly, then you can imagine something approximately 15 times older.
But the question is not if knowing the story takes away from an opera, but rather if knowing the story enhances an opera. And I think it does. Here’s my rationale in relation to Bohème:
- The opera is 123 years old. Countless adaptations and a hit musical have been based on it. Even if you don’t know the story, you know the story.
- For a story to last that long, it has to be timeless. Here’s Bohème: Four guy artists living together, no money, literally starving, one meets a girl and falls in love (in the actual opera it takes about the length of five minutes), their love is ripped apart because she dies. So many human emotions are represented in that sentence.
- Finally, let’s face it, operas are generally in foreign languages (in this case, Italian). Opera houses have a screen above the stage with english translations, and I still read them most of the time, but knowing what is happening makes it so much easier to enjoy the performance and music. I don’t feel like I have to keep up to understand.
So bottom line for me is that I agree with David… know the story, watch the Opera in Brief, and have fun! I promise Bohème will come around again, and if you really like it, you can go see more than one of the six performances in Dallas
If you are going to the show tonight (3/15) or on March 29, drop me a line! I will be there and love to meet you!
La Bohème cover image provided by Karen Almond.