Your Favourite La Bohème MomentsBy COC StaffPosted in 18/19
The world’s most beloved romance is back in Toronto and the city is showing its Bohème stripes.
And why wouldn’t we? The influential opera – a pop culture source book that’s behind everything from Rent to Moulin Rouge to Friends – is more relevant than ever to creative types living in the big city.
We asked a few of our friends to share their favourite thing about this endlessly charming story of young artists in 19th-century Paris.
Director of Art + Culture, The Drake
I love "Musetta’s Waltz". La Bohème is well known as a tragic love story (and it is), but Musetta is so much delicious trouble. Her beauty is her power and with that aria she revels in it. What makes it even better is she doesn’t take it too seriously, it’s playful and fun; she brings the audience along for the ride and if they’re not into her, she gives absolutely no fs. I also want to call out that this time, Musetta is being played by Danika Lorèn, I absolutely adore her. She was made for this role and will no doubt, have us all eating out of the palm of her hand, I honestly can’t wait.
Writer and Columnist, Maclean's
What struck me, indeed caught me by surprise, in fact threw me for a weepy loop, when I saw La Bohème was how new Mimì and Rodolfo’s declaration of their newfound love for each other felt. You think you know the story, you even think you know “O soave fanciulla" but instead it’s like Puccini knows you. A disarming, enchanting night, no question.
Columnist, Toronto Star
La Bohème endures because it is about both the enchantment of youth and the arrogance of youth.
Short of its characters sliding into each others’ DMs, the denizens that make up this opera are very much transferrable to our time: they are going about the business of “adulting” (as the kids like to call it these days), are all about their “squads,” and might as well be shouting “YOLO” from the rooftops.
As a piece, moreover, it has also has remained vivid because it is not an opera about kings and queens – it is about real people. My favourite scene? For drama queens everywhere, it’s got to be Mimì’s last gasp scene – one of the most quietly elegant deaths in opera history!
Eric Margiore and Joyce El-Khoury in La Bohème (COC, 2013). Photo: Chris Hutcheson
Discover your favourite La Bohème moment
Attorney, Lewis & Associates
The opera is a love letter to friendship and to tiny moments of beauty found in the banality of a hard life. The idiosyncrasies of each of the main characters are expressed so cleverly in the melodic line and in the orchestration’s warm sense of humour. You might find yourself laughing and crying at the same time in a single aria and it’s this tenderness that really moves me. I have seen many productions of La Bohème but each time, I too feel like I am visiting a beloved old friend.
Host, CBC Day 6
It's Christmas Eve in Paris. And there's nothing wrong with being poor if you're young, in love and surrounded by friends. This Bohème is bursting to show us how much fun good friends can have together, how life is supremely worth living, that passion isn't constrained by economics – only by the limits of life itself. And the beauty of the music never stops.
Styling & Sales Manager, Nordstrom
La Bohème is a timeless story of friendship, love, and learning that no matter how far we may grow apart, true friendship will always be there. The first time I saw La Bohème was in 2005. My sister was in the Canadian Children’s Opera Chorus and was chosen to perform in the children’s chorus in Act 2 where a festive crowd celebrates Christmas Eve. I loved this act as the stage was filled with children and adults all singing together – it’s such a party! Musetta sings the most charming aria “Quando m'en vo” (“When I walk”) and falls back in love.A scene from La Bohème (COC, 2013), photo: Michael Cooper.
Producer/Host, Sunday Night at the Opera Classical 96.3 FM
What I find irresistible about Bohème is that Puccini composes love at first sight, which is really one of the most wonderful things that can happen to us. My favourite part is the beginning of the opera, in the drafty garret. I love that the opera starts with this 15-minute love scene.
Creative Director, AVEDA Canada
I love a good story rich with human emotion that makes me feel all the feels, and this romantic tale about a group of passionate creatives is one I find I really connect to on a deeply emotional level. Musically, there are so many gorgeous moments throughout, but my personal favourite is the tenor aria “Che gelida manina.”
Puccini knows how to break your heart.
Who can forget Rodolfo speaking at the end of La Bohème, asking his friends questions, unaware that Mimì has died and then that plangent orchestral response? But if I have to choose a memorable moment, I'd prefer to go back to the more hopeful beginning of their love in Act I, after the playful and romantic first meeting of Rodolfo and Mimì, his neighbour whose candle has gone out – here literally rather than sadly metaphorically. Near the end of the scene, as Rodolfo's friends are urging him to join them, he turns and sees her bathed in moonlight. Their love duet “O soave fanciulla” is gorgeous.
Sex Columnist, The Kit
Culture writer and editor
My favourite part of La Bohème (from the 2013 presentation) was the sets! More than many productions I have seen, the lush watercolours and vibrant shades really enhance the drunken, bohemian, anything-can-happen vibe of the story. Watching the singers frolicking around the Latin Quarter, so young and frivolous and melodramatic, makes you yearn for your own youth, awash in the hazy blues and purples of memory.
Principal, Daniel Faria Gallery
As a teenager, I was always intrigued by the opera, but my reality and entry point was musical theatre. It being the late 1990s, I was of course obsessed with Rent like so many of my artsy friends. I was blown away at my first viewing of La Bohème and how much Rent was indebted to, and borrowed from the opera. Hearing the aria “Sì, mi chiamano Mimì” and recognizing Rent’s “Light My Candle” in it was a turning point, and that’s when my appreciation for both pieces really started to take shape.
I love when contemporary works reference their historic predecessors, making history feel contemporary, fresh and relevant for our time, and highlighting we are all part of a continuum.
The idea of burning one’s manuscript to keep warm has become such a widely known romantic parable of the artistic life one could almost call it a meme. Most writers have joked about burning their manuscript to keep warm at some point or another. I bet most people are familiar with this image but couldn’t tell you exactly where it was from.
The writer Beryl Bainbridge wrote in one of her humorous diaristic columns, “I’m still coughing and hawking but have decided to cure myself by lying down with a hot toddy and listening to that opera in which the young woman’s tiny hand is frozen. There’s always somebody worse off than oneself.” Of course she knew well which opera that was – she was just playing the role of absent-minded old lady – but I think also she was joking about the fact that this opera generated images that have now become clichés so widespread that they are hard to place.
Anyway, that’s my favourite moment – Mimì, your tiny hand is frozen.
Arts Writer, theoperaqueen.com
La Bohème is not, for me, a romantic opera; it’s an opera about accepting transformation. The artists of the title are less a series of clichés than aspects of one person, Rodolfo, who uses masks (however unconsciously) to navigate his world; he moves between the swagger of Marcello, the chivalry of Schaunard, the musings of Colline, the charisma of Musetta. It is only through his experience of Mimì, the unassuming, unexpected mirror of his own naked soul, and through the painful if necessary experience of losing her, where he comes to a true understanding of art, authenticity, and ultimately self.
The pros weigh in on their favourite moments
After Benoit gets kicked out of the apartment in Act 1, the men sing "Via di qua." I love the harmony there and the orchestra's scaling crescendo, then it goes right to a meno piano [quieter playing] for, "E buona sera a vostra signori...Hahahaha!" THE BEST PART EVER!
I love the phrase “Buongiorno Marcello” (when Mimì speaks to each of the Bohemians individually before pretending to sleep). The way those two words are written and the peace these few notes create is haunting, so much joy and love in those two words.
Founder and Artistic Director of Against the Grain Theatre
My current favourite moment happens in Act 4 (and is staged in my mind). Schaunard decides to give Mimì and Rodolfo some space, overcome by Mimì’s illness. Rodolfo, completely in shock and frozen in fear takes a moment for himself. He spins round in time to see Mimì fall into his arms before she sings “Sono andati?” Mimì is the definition of pure love. In her weakest moment, nearing the end of her life, she is only thinking of someone else. The moment is in the orchestra and it floats, suspended and time stops.
Eric Margiore and Joyce El-Khoury in La Bohème (COC, 2013). Photo: Chris Hutcheson
Thank you for joining us for Giacomo Puccini's La Bohème.
Production originally made possible by
Jerry & Geraldine Heffernan
Tell us your favourite moment: #COCBoheme #FavouriteMoment | @CanadianOpera
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