Fathom Events' Met Opera "La Boheme": Still Paying the Rent

Susanna Phillips (center) & Cast of "La Boheme"
(photo: Metropolitan Opera)

La Boheme, composed by Giacamo Puccini, is one of opera's most popular and best-known stories that has withstood the test of time in many varied productions (and even survived, if just barely, its adaptation as the rock-like musical Rent). Given its familiarity to most opera fans, a brief synopsis along with identification of the singers involved in this performance should suffice.

In a Parisian garret in the 1840's, writer Rodolpho (tenor Michael Fabiano) and his roommates the artist Marcello (baritone Lucas Meachem), the philosopher Coline (bass Matthew Rose), and the musician Schaunard (baritone Alexey Lavrov) are reduced to burning Rodolpho's work to keep warm while they share a meager supper. Their landlord Benoit (bass Paul Plishka) arrives looking for his rent payment, but they get him drunk and kick him out. All but Rodolfo (who has some writing to finish) head for the nearby Cafe Momus to celebrate Christmas Eve. Soon, there is a weak knock on the door and Mimi (soprano Sonya Yoncheva) arrives with her candle that has blown out. The same happens to Rodolfo and, in their search for illumination, they fall in love (of course, this is an opera after all) and head to join the others at the cafe. There they all enjoy the many distractions, such as the toy vendor Parpignol (tenor Gregory Warren) and the singing by Marcello's former girlfriend Musetta (Susanna Phillips) who arrives on the arm of the rich Alcindoro (Plishka again) and whom she sends off to buy her shoes. Marcello and Musetta fall into one another's arms and join the crowd as they march off after some soldiers, led by the Sergeant (bass Jason Hendrix), leaving the bill behind for Alcindoro.

Michael Fabiano as Rodolfo in "La Boheme"
(photo: Metropolitan Opera)

Months later, with snow falling, at the Barriere d'Enter, or tollgate, manned by the Customs Officer (bass Joseph Turi), Mimi searches for the home where Marcello and Musetta have moved. She speaks of Rodopho's jealousy and hides when he arrives, complaining of her flirting. He reveals his real reason for their difficulties is that the poverty he can offer is not good for the ailing Mimi, who rushes out to bid him goodbye. They reconcile and agree to spend their days together until the arrival of spring. But months later in the garret, it's clear they have again separated, as have Marcello and Musetta, who bemoan their loneliness. Musetta then arrives with a weakened Mimi, arranging for her jewelry to be pawned, and Coline's overcoat as well, for medicine for Mimi. Rodolfo and Mimi sing of much happier days but she begins to cough violently. As all rally around her, she succumbs, and Rodolfo, the last to realize she is gone, collapses in despair.

Sonya Yoncheva as Mimi in "La Boheme"
(photo: Metropolitan Opera)

Just your usual operatic ending (especially for a Puccini heroine), redeemed by some of Puccini's most gloriously romantic music, and presented in this Production (and Set Design) by Franco Zeffirelli, with arguably the most beloved production of the Met's older offerings. In addition, the Costume Design is by Peter J. Hall, with Lighting Design by Gil Wechsler, Stage Direction by Gregory Keller and, as usual, choral direction by estimable Chorus Master Donald Palumbo. The HD Broadcast was presented under Director Matthew Diamond, with Kelli O'Hara as the HD Host (who will be taking on the role of Despina in Cosi fan Tutte in a few weeks).

This was a beautifully sung performance from all six of the principals, plus the added bonus of real chemistry between Fabiano and Yoncheva. With singing, acting and orchestral precision of this caliber, the Met need never be concerned about paying the rent.

The HD Broadcast will have an encore on Wednesday February 28th at a theater near you.

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