Puccini's La Boheme

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Saturday, April 05, 2014

Susanna Phillips as Musetta in Act II of Puccini's 'La Bohème.' Susanna Phillips as Musetta in Act II of Puccini's 'La Bohème.' (Corey Weaver/Metropolitan Opera)

Saturday at 1 pm, the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts one of the all-time blockbusters in its repertory: Franco Zeffirelli’s take on Puccini's La Boheme. Kristine Opolais sings Mimi, replacing Anita Hartig, who withdrew on Saturday morning, citing illness. Vittorio Grigolo stars as Rodolfo. 

Opolais has sung Mimi with the Vienna State Opera, Berlin State Opera, and Latvian National Opera and is scheduled to sing the role at the Met next season.

La Boheme follows a group of artists struggling to survive in Paris's Latin Quarter. It's a timeless tale of friendship, debauchery, and love referenced many times over in popular culture. This performance, conducted by Stefano Ranzani, features a huge cast and is likely to be as crowd-pleasing as it was at the production's 1981 premiere.

 

Cast:

Conductor: Stefano Ranzani
Marcello
Massimo Cavalletti
Rodolfo Vittorio Grigolo
Colline Oren Gradus
Schaunard Patrick Carfizzi
Benoit Donald Maxwell
Mimì Kristine Opolais
Alcindoro Donald Maxwell
Musetta Susanna Phillips

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Comments [26]

Peter Podol from Pittsfield, MA

I was there yesterday. Grigolo was GREAT; the finest young tenor in the role since Carreras in 1974 (and he ruined his voice after just a few years). Glorious sound filling the house.The mimi was okay, no more. Actually the Musetta had the better voice. Can't wait to hear more of Grigolo--he's the tenor I have been waiting for since the glory days of Pavarotti and Domingo are now just memories.(KAufmaN IS A WONDERFUL SINGER WITH AN ODD BARITONAL SOUND IN THE LOWER AN DMIDDLE REGISTERS AND fLOREZ IS TERRIFIC IN THE REALLY LIGHT REPETOIRE)

Apr. 06 2014 09:12 PM
Peter Podol from Pittsfield, MA

I was there yesterday. Grigolo was GREAT; the finest young tenor in the role since Carreras in 1974 (and he ruined his voice after just a few years). Glorious sound filling the house.The mimi was okay, no more. Actually the Musetta had the better voice. Can't wait to hear more of Grigolo--he's the tenor I have been waiting for since the glory days of Pavarotti and Domingo are now just memories.(KAufmaN IS A WONDERFUL SINGER WITH AN ODD BARITONAL SOUND IN THE LOWER AN DMIDDLE REGISTERS AND fLOREZ IS TERRIFIC IN THE REALLY LIGHT REPETOIRE)

Apr. 06 2014 09:12 PM
Peter Podol from Pittsfield, MA

I was there yesterday. Grigolo was GREAT; the finest young tenor in the role since Carreras in 1974 (and he ruined his voice after just a few years). Glorious sound filling the house.The mimi was okay, no more. Actually the Musetta had the better voice. Can't wait to hear more of Grigolo--he's the tenor I have been waiting for since the glory days of Pavarotti and Domingo are now just memories.(KAufmaN IS A WONDERFUL SINGER WITH AN ODD BARITONAL SOUND IN THE LOWER AN DMIDDLE REGISTERS AND fLOREZ IS TERRIFIC IN THE REALLY LIGHT REPETOIRE)

Apr. 06 2014 09:12 PM
Robert St.Onge from Cochiti Lake,NM

To Les from Miami,Florida: I respectfully disagree with your condemnation of the Met's 'La Boheme' and its brief pause between Acts I and II. In story terms,the second act takes place probably just a few minutes after the first act. Thus,it makes psychological sense to put them so closely together. Act III takes place a couple of months after,so an intermission is proper. Same for the relationship of Act III to Act IV. And it isn't just the Met that does this. Many years ago I attended an 'Aida' at the Vienna State Opera that went this way: Acts I and II together,intermission,Acts III and IV together. It made little sense. Ah, but it got patrons out before the city's Public Transportation shut down for the night.Sometimes,determinations like that must be considered,alas.

Apr. 06 2014 01:26 PM
Les from Miami, Florida

Re: Eliminating intermissions and RCA Orchestra...Regarding the practice of eliminating intermissions and running acts together, I beg to differ. Puccini clearly intended Act I. of "La Bohe`me" to end in C major with the lovers singing offstage (the interpolated high C many Rodolfos take notwithstanding). Performed thusly, Rodolfo and Mimi's love has sufficient time to "sink in". He didn't write Act I, Scene II as the Zeffirelli production demonstrates with the "Al Quartiere Latino" act beginning with the tree trumpets in F major and concluding with the military tattoo. Similarly, many of today's directors who think their ideas are as important as the composer's, also distort the composer's time scheme, as exemplified in continuing Act IV of "Andrea Che'nier" after having concluded Act III. For one thing, it violates Giordano's time scheme and wreaks havoc with the key scheme. Act III ends in d minor and Act IV begins with the strings, clarinets and bassoons in e minor alternating with g minor for the first 8 bars. It's clear Giordano wanted the impact --- and what an impact it is --- of the end of Act III. to "sink in", thus the intermission followed by Act IV. Back to "La Bohe`me" as arranged by Zefirelli: the poetry of the lovers' first realization of "amor"...indeed, that's the final word of the act...is extremely short lived: let's get right on with the exciting loud stuff that begins the Latin Quarter act and put (seemingly) four hundred people on stage. That will wow 'em, all right, as the popularity of this production attests to. All of the singers of treasured memory that other posters have mentioned left us legacies truly to be treasured; BUT, let it be remembered, they worked with master conductors who placed the composer first and stage directors who under the auspices of the conductor. If anyone wishes to listen to recording from start to finish without any pauses (like "Das Rheingold" should be listened to), more power to him/her. But for an authentic live experience, let us be guided by the composer's score at least as regards placing intermissions where he intended them to be. And the RCA Orchestra was composed of members of the New York Philharmonic and were referred to thusly when they recorded for RCA Victor, since they were exclusively under contract to Columbia Records at that time. I wish I could cite a source, but I just don't remember. I've long wondered about this myself. To the best of my knowledge, Toscanini's NBC Symphony Orchestra members were not part of the RCA Orchestra. As such, they also recorded non-operatic music, such "An American in Paris" and "Billy the Kid" conducted by Leonard Bernstein released on the budget Camden label. I would love to be corrected by anyone with authoritative information.

Apr. 06 2014 09:57 AM
frances from Manhattan

What a tenor!! I haven't heard that kind of singing for such a long time! And his name is pronounced GRIGolo, no other way.

Apr. 05 2014 04:14 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau

Happy Spring and best wishes to everyone.

Apr. 05 2014 04:11 PM
Concetta Nardone from Nassau

Wish Miss Margaret would pronounce Grigolo as GrigoLO and not GrigOlo. Today's Mimi keeps using MIA where she should be using MIO.Now I could be wrong,
CBC: I never heard Lauri Volpi but do remember Renata when she was starting out.
Mr.Cavaliere, you are right. How could I forget those singers. My bad. And though he was not a classical singer, I loved how Crosby sang.

Apr. 05 2014 04:07 PM

Mr. Cavaliere you omitted Tocanini's favorite- Pertile. There were so many others we can't leave out Dino Borgioli, Ferandina, Fillipeschi, and a great Radames & Otello, Melchior.

Apr. 05 2014 04:01 PM

CBC did you ever Lauri-Volpi's "che gelida" when he hits the C & then goes up to a D? I know that's showing off but what the heck. Also, I have te Tebaldi/Lauri-Volpi Boheme from 1950. He was walking thru Act 1 & she was Tebaldi. During the Act 1 curtain calls he noticed hers were much more enthusiastic than his & he refused to sing Act 2. The direttore had to beg him to sing the rest of the opera which he now sang without taking shortcuts.
And yes, you are correct I heard the same story about Pippo.I also caught him on RAI in late 1980's sing in an outdoor taverna - the voice was basically all there except for the very top & he was smoking between songs but the voice still had that innate beauty. quanto piccato.

Apr. 05 2014 03:52 PM
Ralph Cavaliere from No. Massapeqa, NY

Cara Concetta, I'm way before your time so, I'll have to add to your list of great Italian singers. Daniele Serra, Carlo Buti, Emilio Livi, Giuseppe Lugo, Luciano Virgili, Tito Schipa, Martinelli and more recently, Nicolo' Martinucci, Carlo Bergonzi and Franco Corelli...And on the distaff side; Rosa Ponselle, Bruna Castagna, Maria Caniglia, Gina Cigna, Magda Olivero, Toti Dal Monte....Alas, so many others left out.

Apr. 05 2014 03:47 PM
Ralph Cavaliere from No. Massapequa, NY

In the spirit of comparing La Boheme, my favorite is the old Boheme with Gigli and Albanese, followed by the Bjoerling and De Los Angeles, with Sir Thomas Beecham, the incomparable conductor. He was the whole production with the RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra, driving the singers to new heights.
And what about the post-war Toscanini broadcast, with Albanese, Peerce and, Toscanini "singing on the podium?" That broadcast was a joy to hear!
And a thought to Mr. Gelb? Today's productions are all about the directors, forgetting who wrote the music and putting their own stamp to the operas.
Anxiously waiting to hear Andrea Chenier and compare it with del Monaco and La Tebaldi next Saturday. (Was Sir Thomas' RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra and Toscanini's NBC Orchestra one and the same?) Interested to know. Today's April 5 is enjoyable, starting with Grigolo and Kristine Opolais, who are exceptional. So is Ranzani and the great Met Orchestra. (Present tense, the opera is not over yet.)

Apr. 05 2014 03:22 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau

CBC: He developed asthma in the 1950s and never fully recovered. He went to live in Kenya where he was the victim of a criminal attack. He was sent to Italy but never recovered. What a flame he was, superb diction. I've heard him sing some Sicilian songs but unfortunately, do not understand the dialect even though my mother was Sicilian. He was also devilishly(?) handsome. That's good too. Wow, what a childhood I had. Gigli, Bjoerling,Merrill, DiStefano, Francesco Albanese, Milanov,Tebaldi, DeLosAngeles, Claudio Villa, Roberto Murolo. these singers for me were the popular culture.
Tante belle cose.

Apr. 05 2014 03:22 PM

CBC do you know how Pippo blew out his voice? Del Monaco was scheduled to sing Canio at La Scala, He withdrew, they then asked Corelli, who was already engaged. Pippo offered to sing the role - no High C's,(Vesti la Giubbba has only 2 High A's) piece of cake for him BUT Canio pounds the middle voice & there went the beautiful vioce. I have a bunch of his CD's of songs. They bring sunshine when I play them. I even have some of his Sicilian songs - brings back memories. Tempi cambi. We don't have voices like that any longer.

Apr. 05 2014 02:34 PM
CONCETTA nardone from Nassau

Caro Cavanaugh, been writing all about Naples, history, songs, poetry. I have been listening to Neapolitan songs sung by DiStefano.Boy could he sing but he burned himself out. What a flame. God what beauty and poetry in those songs. I am so blessed to understand the Neapolitan dialect. Today's performance is OK but I certainly remember how Toscanini conducted this one. As for today's sets, etc., I think they are beautiful and Zefferelli's Tosca was also beautiful. Do not know what Gelb is doing. Yes, should be shot come Palmieri.
Auguri

Apr. 05 2014 02:17 PM

Dear Les from Miami. the only reason for the break from Acts 1 to 2 is to change the sets.
To Lee Apt, using all uppercase is the same as shouting when posting. I don't think you meant to shout at all of us.

Apr. 05 2014 01:57 PM
MiinnieFalconer from Sacramento

I must be getting old. I remember back in the 70s being thrilled at every performance on the radio of any standard repertoire opera like Boheme, Tosca, etc. The same goes for live performances at the Met, where my family used to have seasons tickets at the Grand Tier. In today's performance,"Che gelida manina" did nothing from me. I waited to listen for the applause, just polite. Ditto for "Si mi chiamano Mimi." The soprano does not pronounce the high notes. She just vocalizes. I think I will turn to my old recordings to get me thrills. The "O soave fanciulla" used to give me goose pimples.

Apr. 05 2014 01:48 PM
LEE APT from UWS-NYC

I NEVER SAW THEM - BUT I HAVE THE DE LOS ANGELES BJOERLING MERRILL RECORDING, WHICH IS MY FAVORITE. BUT FOR THESE DAYS - I LOVE THE NETREBKO/VILLAZON LA BOHEME.

Apr. 05 2014 12:34 PM
Concetta Nardone from Nassau

Catch Jussi on Youtube in the Farewell from Cavalleria Rusicana. Renata is also in this cast and I think I will buy it. They were both wonderful. Have Renata in Tosca and Boheme, Aida on LPs. God could she sing.
Buona Pasqua CBC. Love Chenier and it is not performed often enough.

Apr. 05 2014 12:12 PM
Hendrik E. Sadi from Yonkers, New York

You all have it wrong. The best La Boheme is Carlo Bergonzi as Rodolfo, Renata Tebaldi as Mimi, Ettore Bastianini as Marcello and Cesare Siepi as Colline, and Gianna D'Angelo as Musetta.
On Tosca. What idiot decided that the spiritual portrait of a woman Cavaradossi is painting in the first act should be a Vamp with her breast exposed?

Apr. 05 2014 10:07 AM
Les from Miami, Florida

With this cast, I abstain courteously. Play your favorite C.D.'s or L.P.'s instead; any cast already mentioned is preferable, to which I'll include Albanese and Gigli with La Scala conductor Berrettoni and Albanese Peerce, NBC Symphony, Toscanini. And they can stop performing Act II immediately after Act I with no intermission, too. Puccini wrote the music, not Zeffirelli.

Apr. 05 2014 09:37 AM

CBC what idiot got rid of the beautiful old Tosca for this piece of schlock? They should be put up against the wall & shot - "come Conte Palmieri"

Apr. 05 2014 09:27 AM

CBC Primavera, amore, Boheme. who could ask for anything else? Di Stefano & Tebaldi would be nice. But my 1st Rodolfo was Jussi & I always go back to him. There's that great You Tube with Jussi & Renata. Nobody comes close today.As for the production, how do you top Zeffirelli? It's a great work on a beautiful day. Enjoy and luxuriate in the music. Thank you Giacomo !! After next week I won't be posting because nothing after Chenier interests me. I heard this Boh.just this Tuesday. There's something about Grigolo's voice that I like but I can't put my finger on it. Hope all is well with you. State buon. Buonna Pasqua! If you don't have it get the '74 Boheme b'cast with Corelli & Caballe, now they knew how to spin out a line & break your heart. Not one wasted note in this opera. It's very hard to screw this one up. che bella musica! Basta, I've gone on long enough.

Apr. 05 2014 09:24 AM
concetta nardone from Nassau

Mr. Rothenberg said it quite well. Thanks. The Met is losing money and the economy might be a factor but some of these ugly productions do not help. The second act of Tosca turned my stomach etc.etc.

Apr. 05 2014 09:23 AM
concetta nardone from Nassau

CBC: Hope you are well. I have been ruined forever by listening to DeLosAngeles, Bjoerling and Merrill on my cd. Do not think today's cast can top that. As for Grigolo, such a pretty tenorino. Saw him a few years ago on Italian TV from Verona. Last act of Tosca, he was covered in blood. When acknowledging applause, threw kisses and was crying.Aw. On same program, Justin Bieber. Sweet young things in audience carrying signs that read We want to be your girlfriend. Ugh.

Apr. 05 2014 07:27 AM
Sanford Rothenberg from Brooklyn

We once again have the opportunity to evaluate this most popular of productions.While there are those who take exception to the massive Act II set,the overall reception has been decidedly favorable.It is intriguing to think of the "good old days" at the MET,with the productions of Zeffirelli and Ponnelle,which contrast with the productions offered by numerous operatic illiterates masquerading as "directors".

Apr. 05 2014 01:18 AM

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