Weekly Adventure: La Bohème at the Metropolitan Opera

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I carried 4 main facts into last night’s performance of La Bohème at Lincoln Center last night:

  1. I have only recently (read in the last 2 years thanks to the Austin Opera) gotten over a baseless belief that I hated opera
  2. La Bohème is the source material for RENT, which is one of my favorite pieces of art of all time
  3. It’s also the opera that Nic Cage brings Cher to in Moonstruck
  4. The role of Colline was going to be sung by Ryan Speedo Green, who has a really interesting back story. I recommend listening to his Fresh Air interview

In other words, I still feel like too much of an opera newbie to write real reviews, but I was really excited when Claire invited me to go to Lincoln Center for the first time. And it was a really wonderful evening.

Firstly, the building itself is gorgeous, or as I said on Instagram stories last night:

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We also got our own box! Mostly, because the seats were partial view and there were some major scenes (including Green’s coat aria) that were completely obscured for us, but for the most part that didn’t interfere with my enjoyment, and it felt very fancy.

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Obnoxious intermission selfie

The performance itself was also great. As someone raised on musical theater, I’m astounded by the sheer scale of opera. In addition to a huge chorus, including a bunch of children, there were also a donkey and a horse that each did nothing more than walk across the stage once. (Is this traditional? Where do those animals come from? Where do they live?)

Having RENT memorized actually really helped me to follow the plot, especially in the first act when it’s basically the exact same story minus some drugs, which allowed me to not rely too heavily on the subtitles (though I loved my nifty little personal screen), and really allow myself to follow the emotion of the music. I particularly loved Massimo Cavalletti as Marcello, he was funny when he needed to be and had a wonderful quality to his voice.

Our Mimi, Hei-Kyung Hong, was also really excellent, and at the first intermission we learned it was her 30th anniversary singing at the Met! Though I found it odd that they presented the plaque in the middle of the show. But maybe that’s just another opera tradition I didn’t know about before.

Overall I loved the production, and found the story and relationships remarkably modern. (Musetta’s independence particularly, her line “I hate lovers who act like husbands” could still shock some people today.) And the atmosphere of the building and all the lights on the plaza made for a night that was somehow grand and cozy at the same time. It was the first thing this year to truly put me into the holiday spirit. (Let’s ignore that it’s a story about a woman dying tragically OK?)

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