Five-Minute MFA: La Bohème

Adam L. Brinklow | November 19, 2014 | Story Music

Who doesn’t treasure Italian composer Giacomo Puccini’s timeless story of star-crossed love between an impoverished poet and an ailing seamstress? OK, so the name only vaguely rings a bell. If you want to scope out the world’s most famous opera but don’t want to end up in the opera’s remedial class, memorize this cheat sheet of smart-sounding stuff to say during intermission. Nov. 14–Dev. 7,

“I’m glad they’ve deigned to bring La Bohème back—it’s such a respectable old tradition.”
San Francisco Opera has performed La Bohème 85 times, in 11 cities and 3 states, since launching the company with it in 1923—but only once in the last 10 years here.

“Pittsburgh may not be the Royal Opera, but Crocetto has a big future in the role.”
Mimi (the ailing seamstress loved by the impoverished poet) is sung by two sopranos: Alexia Voulgaridou, a Greek who has sung Mimi at the Royal Opera as well as in Milan, Berlin, and Geneva; and Leah Crocetto, an American who (though her only Mimi credit is with the less exotic-sounding Pittsburgh Opera) is considered a rising star.

“Finzi’s conducting is exemplary, but how do you think he compares with the original Toscanini?”
In 1946, original La Bohème conductor Arturo Toscanini conducted it again for a radio broadcast with the NBC Symphony Orchestra. It’s the only recording of a Puccini opera with its original conductor, and the whole thing is on YouTube for you to study before opening night.

Originally published in the November issue of San Francisco

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