There’s nothing quite like gallivanting around Lincoln Center on a crisp late-fall evening and ending up at the Metropolitan Opera.
Something about being amongst that concentration of performance art venues scratches a very specific itch for me. On this occasion, I caught the final performance of La Bohème for the 2018-2019 season. I’ve seen this particular opera several times, but the draw during this visit was getting to hear the outstanding Ailyn Pérez and Angel Blue, yet I was also treated to further great performances from Chris van Horn, Lucas Meachem, Duncan Rock, Donald Maxwell, and Michael Fabiano. The Franco Zifferelli set was a treat for the eyes as well; though I assume the massive set transitions delayed the program leading to an extended break after act 1, and longer-than-usual intermissions subsequently…though I wasn’t too broken up given the sparkling rosé I enjoyed during the breaks.
The story of La Bohème is familiar to anyone who has seen RENT the musical or has been a struggling artist at any point in a major metropolitan area (ahem…New York City). In post-revolution France A couple of bohemians (Rodolfo, Marcello) are living in an apartment that they can’t afford, and avoid/bribe the landlord (Benoit) at every turn. Their friends (Schaunard/Colline) drop in an out like the slackers they seem to be (like Tommy and Cole on an episode of Martin). They all decide to meet up at the local watering hole, Café Momus, to drink and wax idiotic about their lives; however, Rodolfo stays behind and Mimi happens upon him asking to relight her candle; flirtation ensues.
During the cafe scene, Marcello’s ex-or-maybe-still girlfriend Musetta is traipsing around with a rich-old man, Alcindoro (who knows she is still in love with Marcello…awkward). After some theatrics, Musetta lures Marcello back. Alcindoro is left with the massive bill the bohemians leave behind.
After the honeymoon phase fades and descends into an actual relationship with jealousy and disagreements, Rodolfo wants to split from Mimi, but we find out he wants to call it quits because Mimi has a disease and their poverty isn’t helping the situation. They decide to stay together while Musetta and Marcello bicker like children.
All romantic parties separated, it’s revealed that Mimi’s illness has deteriorated and she wants to be near Rodolfo. He retrieves her, and everyone tries to make her as comfortable as possible while talking about happier days. Unfortunately, at this point she passes on.
Given the continuing relevancy of La Bohème, and the relatability of its characters, it’s no wonder why the opera is a great starting point for people who might be intimidated by the grand works.
CAST FOR THE DECEMBER 13, 2018 PERFORMANCE:
Conductor – James Gaffigan
Mimí – Ailyn Pérez
Musetta – Angel Blue
Rodolfo – Michael Fabiano
Marcello – Lucas Meachem
Schaunard – Duncan Rock
Colline – Christian Van Horn
Benoit/Alcindoro – Donald Maxwell