March 16 & 18, 2018

La bohème (Marcello)
Mobile Opera
Mobile, AL

Premiere: Teatro Regio, Turin, 1896

La bohème, the passionate, timeless, and indelible story of love among young artists in Paris, can stake its claim as the world's most popular opera.  It has a marvelous ability to make a powerful first impression (even to those new to opera) and to reveal unsuspected treasures after dozens of hearings.  At first glance, La bohème is the definitive depiction of the joys and sorrows of love and loss; on closer inspection, it reveals the deep emotional significance hidden in the trivial things - a bonnet, an old overcoat, a chance meeting with a neighbor - that make up our everyday lives.  Following Puccini's breakthrough success with Manon Lescaut three years earlier, La bohème established him as the leading Italian opera composer of his generation.

The libretto sets the action in Paris, circa 1830.  This is not a random setting, but rather reflects the issues and concerns of a particular time and place.  After the upheavals of revolution and war, French artists had lost their traditional support base of aristocracy and church and were desperate for new sources of income.  The rising bourgeoisie took up the burden of patronizing artists and earned their contempt in return.  The story, then, centers on self-conscious youth at odds with mainstream society, feeling themselves morally superior to the rules of the bourgeois (specifically regarding sexual mores) and expressing their independence with affectations of speech and dress. The bohemian ambience of this opera is clearly recognizable in any modern urban center. La bohème captures this ethos in its earliest days.

The Temple Downtown
Mobile, AL