Monday, February 11, 2013

La Boheme at the Lyric

Original Poster for La Boheme
Everyday people (sort of), everyday life (mostly), and an everyday love story (maybe not quite).  Opera Verismo.  Certainly not grand opera, not an Aida or even a Lucia.  But rather a small, simple love story, direct and tragic, encased in some of the most beautiful melodies in opera.    

The other day with family and friends I took in the first of two Lyric Opera ensembles performing Puccini’s La Boheme this winter at Chicago’s Civic Opera House, with Ana Maria Martinez and Dimitri Pittas very enjoyable in the leads.  I first saw Boheme at the Lyric around 30 years ago, with Pavarotti in the male lead role.  The strength, depth, and breadth of his voice seem to have almost been unique, and other tenors since then have sounded a touch thin, but that’s just me. 

Mr Pittas is a New York native who is quoted in the Program saying that he was first turned on to opera listening to the collection of duets by Bjorling and Merrill.  Well, for 30 years I myself have been enjoying those duets, coincidentally given to me by a dear friend also at the performance that night, and anyone who can listen to them and not want to hear more is a lost cause, operatically speaking.

Main Hall of Chicago's Civic Opera House
Unfortunately the set was underwhelming, and we know just whom to blame – owned and constructed, says the Program, by the San Francisco Opera, clearly a budget conscious outfit.  The garret shown in Acts One and Four consisted of a small elevated platform in the middle of the stage with a large border around it that took up most of the space, so that it all looked like a small painting in a frame three sizes too big.  But it’s La Boheme, after all, where the characters and the music get all the attention, which, of course, they should.

R Balsamo

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