La Bohème is an opera full of comedy, tragedy, and singing. A lot of singing. Though I suppose that’s what an opera is, it was still a new format for me and therefore made for a really interesting experience. Drama and plays have always been up my alley, but to see dialogue converted to a consistently musical form definitely changed the way I watched this piece. This is all to say, it was pretty fantastic. The micless performers blew me away with their performances, not only rivalling the pit in volume but delivering line after line beautifully. I found the climactic moments of multiple characters singing their own verses layered over each other especially enjoyable and impressive.
Another point that simply has to be mentioned is the set design for this production. Three intricate sets were used, each necessitating an intermission. The world-building done with tall storefronts, moving trains, and falling snow was so engaging and really added to the different moods of each of the four acts. The way characters were able to truly inhabit the stage really allowed the audience to be transported across the Atlantic to a chilly Parisian winter.
A critique I have of this work is one that has been leveled before towards it since its inception; it’s quite fluffy. The story focuses on the lives of bohemians surviving off of their artistic creation and free thought moreso than actual food, but yet the story only uses this concept for bare-bones plot developments. The bohemian lifestyle is represented through this opera with a funny opening number of burning the pages of one’s play to stay warm and a character feeling guilty for his lover’s decline in health due to his limited means. The latter plot point has some value to it, but it’s outweighed by the melodramatic romance and fun (but kind of just fun) comedic moments between characters. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making an opera that has stellar performances and aesthetics with a more surface-level plot; I still found La Bohème to be a whole lot of fun and really a showcase of talent, but personally I’d rather see the time period of the piece used to its fullest potential thematically.
Ultimately, I’d love to go see more operatic performance through SMTD and I’d encourage anyone in the Ann Arbor area to make it out to a show. There’s a clear commitment to quality performance and theatrical design that makes these shows truly captivating.