The classic opera “La Boheme,” composed by Giacomo Puccini, is beyond iconic. Not only is the score boundlessly beautiful, but the tragic story still rings true in each era that has followed its conception.
The plot of the opera is suspiciously relatable to most college students: young people living a penniless, open minded, unconventional lifestyle, surviving in subpar housing, gossiping about relationship drama and dealing with an array of diseases from late night adventures parading around the city.
If librettists Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa’s four act plot is not enough for you, Puccini’s score will be. Puccini is widely known as one of the greatest opera composers of all time. His sweeping score for “La Boheme” is one of his most well known. This SMTD production brings Puccini’s score to life with a full SMTD orchestra as well as twelve members of the Michigan Marching Band playing on stage throughout the production in full costume.
“La Boheme” is set in post-war 1947. Regardless of the time period, the premise is universal enough to be situated at any time. SMTD faculty member and director of the production, Matthew Ozawa, decided on the 1947 setting because of the stark contrast between the massive despair of World War II and the young aspiring artists who have faith in the future. This contrast makes the opposition in the story that much more heartbreaking.
“The idea of people having just gone through war … they have to find so much through their artistry and through each other to gain back that sense of humanity that maybe had been lost,” Ozawa said.
“‘La Boheme’ is quite possibly the perfect first opera to go to,” said conductor Kenneth Keisler in an interview with The Daily.
Even though the opera is technically tragic, there are long moments of comedy, and the heart of the show is pure gold. Each character, especially the main lovers Mimi and Rodolpho, have such strong dreams and aspirations that it’s difficult not to fall in love with them.
The idea of turning to each other instead of material things to find happiness is something that I appreciate going into the winter months here at Michigan. Our vice is more along the lines of Netflix instead of jewels from the Paris bourgeoisie, but I believe the thought carries over.
“What’s so interesting to me is that the artists really have to struggle to have food and heat … it’s their art that creates the beauty and hope of life.” Ozawa said. Taking Ozawa’s advice, I will happily lean into my last winter here. My art will probably be better for it.