This summer, the Cincinnati Opera performs Puccini’s La Bohème. Let’s wrap up our opera conversation this month by mentioning this lovely Italian opera dating from late 19th century.
Giacomo Puccini was known to create his own unique style, combining elements of the great opera composers who came before him: Verdi’s gorgeous vocal melodies and Wagner’s leitmotifs. Puccini used arias, choruses, duets, etc. and often blurred the distinction between recitatives and arias used in operas in the prior century.
La Bohème is perhaps Puccini’s most famous opera. Set in Paris around 1830, the tale revolves around the love between Parisian artists. The score is emotional and lyrical, depicting the good and sad times of life – from a first meeting to a last farewell. The melodies are memorable, and carefully used to depict the mood and setting of each scene. One example of how Puccini brilliantly used melody in this opera is in his slight alterations to a theme – first foreshadowing the plan to go to Café Momus in town during Act I, then developing the theme once the friends arrive in town during Act II, and finally turning this same theme into a distant memory during Act III.
There’s good reason why La Bohème has remained one of the most popular operas of all time. But please do not take my word for it! Go watch the Cincinnati Opera perform it this summer and in the meantime, enjoy Musetta’s Waltz from Act II sung here by Anna Netrebko.