This months blog post is going to be pretty short. Month number three and we are doing another italian opera. However we are advancing past Bel Canto and moving into verismo. Verismo meaning “realism”.
In the 8th grade I was introduced to this Puccini opera. We were learning about it for a general music class and the hit broadway musical RENT had been out for a few years. We were comparing the two and needless to say, I mostly only retained the RENT information. Anyway, all I remembered about the opera La Boheme was that Pavarotti was the leading man and Mimi died. That’s it. No really. That’s all I remembered about it. Fast forward to 2007 (ish?) for my first live viewing of La Boheme. I was so excited! Everyone always gushed about how much they love this timeless opera and how the music just takes you away.
I was very let down with this beloved opera. I probably should have brushed up on the story line and listened to some excerpts so I could hum along in my head but overall I was actually bummed this opera did not hold up to the hype. I could not believe WHY anyone would think this is the best opera of all time.
Anyway, I was disappointed the relationship between the leading lady and tenor was so shallow. Literally Mimi walks in the door and BAM they are singing “Amore!!!” Comeon, how is this verismo aka “realism”. I’m willing to be flexible but this was just sickening. Sure sure sure the music was lovely, the cast sang stunningly, but that didn’t matter. No connection for me. Just too shallow and hokey. I will tell you though, the opening for Act 2 still drives me nuts. If I can skip through all that nonsense to Musetta’s waltz that’d be GREAT!
So, what changed? Why do I now enjoy La Boheme (though maybe not as much as some still…) Well, first I started listening to some tenor arias and “Che gelida manina” came on my playlist. I loved it! Took me by surprise. So I had to keep going and naturally take another listen to Mimi’s arias. While the characters seemed lacking in depth at my first look, once I started digging into the music more I found the characters were actually much closer to “realism” than I thought possible. In fact, the relationships between the characters became much more interesting. People write books and dissertations on this stuff, but I’m going to wrap this up with one more paragraph. So please, venture out and do some of your own research.It will be fun! Promise.
Anyway, FINALLY I am now able to get past the hokey “AMORE!!” at the end of the first act (despite it being unquestionably beautiful music). I realized Mimi’s financial situation and poor health was all too believable. I suppose when I was younger I thought Mimi was a simple girl and somewhat naive. OR maybe I didn’t get a good read of the subtitles my first viewing and didn’t realize Mimi is a beautiful soul trapped in an ugly world. Doing what she needs to so she can survive in a tragic society.
Ok, that’s all I have time for. Now you have some of my thoughts on this classic.