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Subject: la boheme
From: kurt youngmann <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:kurt youngmann <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sat, 24 Feb 2018 22:22:11 -0600
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Some ramblings about today’s performance, seen in the HD telecast and about the opera, itself:

When I was young, the end of La Boheme made me cry. Now I’m no longer young and I find myself in tears from practically the beginning of the opera. Even the happy parts make me sad because I know what is happening, what is going to happen. Some of the characters really existed. Didn’t Schaunard, for example (né Alexandre Schanne) become a manufacturer of toys and do quite well financially. Rodolfo (Henri Murger himself, I believe) fared less well, never achieving great popularity and dying at only 38. Colline, as well, may have existed as Gustave Colline - at least I believe I remember reading so. Mimi may be more difficult to trace since she’s a composite of two (perhaps three? - I don’t remember offhand) characters in Murger’s work.

One of the pleasures of this beautiful old Met production is that it looks and feels like La Boheme. It’s not set in a diner or at Coney Island or in Las Vegas. Puccini and his brilliant librettists had a charming story and very human characters from which to draw this masterpiece. Franco Zeffirelli presented it in the way it was meant to be experienced, not in a way to make it “more relevant to today’s audiences.”  It was my first favorite opera and my love for it has never diminished. Its relevance can’t be, and shouldn’t be, improved upon; it’s a universal tragedy of great, but doomed, love.

I wholeheartedly agree with our wise colleague, Bob Rideout, that this opera is a masterpiece. Act II is, to me, one of the greatest acts of any opera. The piece can shine even when not performed in a world class way. Today was a good example of this. Among my early experiences with Mimi were Rosanna Carteri, Renata Tebaldi in her magnificent prime and Mirella Freni. Ms. Yoncheva, who appears to work hard to give her best, doesn’t compare. She hasn’t Carteri’s or Freni’s youthful abandon or Tebaldi’s lush sound. But I very much enjoyed her effort. My early Rodolfo tenors were Giuseppe di Stefano and Jussi Bjoerling, both of whom were giants among giants. Michael Fabbiano bewilders me. When I first heard him (in the Met auditions film) I thought I was hearing the next great tenor. I saw him as Gennaro in 2011 and was mightily impressed. Hearing a few of his early complete performances in broadcasts I continued my expectations. Last November’s des Grieux in the San Francisco Manon didn’t sound like him at his best; I blamed it on a curved wall in the scenery that seemed to distort the sound of his very forward-placed timbre. Today I thought I heard some sign of tentativeness or restraint in his vocal production. But, as with Ms. Yoncheva, I liked him very much. The opera is, after all, La Boheme and one loves the characters. I disagree with those who complained of Maestro Armiliato’s conducting.

The real stars of today’s performance were Franco Zeffirelli, Giuseppe Giacosa, Luigi Illica and - most of all - Giacomo Puccini!

Kurt Youngmann

"Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'” -
Isaac Asimov


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