La Boheme — our Family Tale to Tell!
It was moving, it was touching, it was unique, it was splendid!
And we dressed up even though it was a drive-in! If you peeked in our car, you would see a parade of our best and fanciest dresses along with the Czech custom made jewelry, high heels, shiny purses, all finished by a tap of French perfume!! We did not cheat that opera evening a bit!
It was Tuesday night out with our family to see La Boheme. So much to take in: our first ever drive in! We learned that clutching hands and inconspicuous sips of wine from a water can bottle is required of seasoned drive-inners, so we followed that wise advice! And the evening turned out fabulous! Just fabulous!
We drove in, many attendants directed us with a smile to our spot, no lines, no hustle or chaos, just a pleasant cruise into a parking spot right in front of an oversized screen. We parked, tuned in to 98.5 FM, looked left, looked right, nodded with a smile and a wave at our neighbors, exchanged several words and a feeling of community joy already settled in. And when everyone started honking horns and flashing headlights in the enthusiasm for this evening, I was in heaven already!
First tones of Puccini's masterpiece are heard. The sound is impeccable, and I am moved! I did not expect it to be so "real", when I imagined I would be watching an opera from my car with a stage far away from me. But I was wrong. There was so much to relish! The beauty of the superb singing, excellent acting, outstanding orchestra, and the urgency of conveying a story full of passion, love, empathy and friendship transported us into the middle of Paris into Latin Quater to follow '"vie de bohème"" as if we have never seen it before.
And here comes Mimi, knocking on Rodolfo's door, sheepish, beautiful, modest, and after heartfelt and famous Rodolpho's aria "Che gelida manina", Your little hand is Frozen, Mimi goes right in to one of my favorites "Si, mi chiamano Mimi", My Name is Mimi....After each of these gems the parking lot turns into a jubilee of joy with another set of honking, flashing lights and waving hands from the windows...and here comes the beautiful music again and we sit at the edge of our seat waiting what will come next.
All of the singers were extraordinary, boasting truly astonishing credits, and it would be hard to chose the best, but if we had to, our tops would be extraordinary Musetta (Andrea Carrol, currently singing in Viennese opera), and equally excellent Rodolfo (Joshua Guarrero, Houston Grand Opera), followed by sweet Mimi (Ana Maria Martinez, Met, Houston Grand Opera) and as good and passionate Marcello (Alexander Birch Elliott, LA Opera, Met). Let us not forget about our own San Diego symphony making an excellent opera orchestra under the baton of dynamic and charismatic Rafael Payare!
La Boheme is based upon a novel by Henry Murger "Scènes de la vie de Bohème" (I recommend to read it!) , premiered in Turino in 1896 as Gioacomo Puccini's fourth opera. It was preceded with his very first hit opera, the charming Manon Lescaux, premiered by 1893. The premiere of La Boheme, conducted by 28 year old Arthuro Toscanini, was not a success. It was called trite and empty by the reviewers, and the audience could not be more lukewarm. The Met premiered it in 1900, and a critic of the New York Tribune described it as "foul in subject and fulminant and futile in its music", and concluded the opera is "silly and inconsequential". But Puccini's publisher Giulio Ricordi felt that in La Boheme is something that will win the audience after all. In his letter, three months after the premiere, he writes to Puccini: "If this time you have not succeeded in hitting the nail squarely on the head, I will change my profession and sell salami."
I am glad Puccini's opera won the hearts of the opera world after all, and Ricordi, rather than opening a deli, could become the most famous music publisher in the world. Mainly then, I am happy for all of the generations of opera admirers, including my family, who have been indulging in this simple but so much musically well conceived story full of feelings of humanity that leaves our souls transformed.