Gateway Drug to Operatic Addiction: 'La Bohème' at Seattle Opera

La BohemePerhaps best known for its critically acclaimed interpretations of Richard Wagner — the 38 cycles of the famed Ring series in particular — Seattle Opera is a not-to-miss experience.

Witness its current production, Giacomo Puccini's La Bohème. I attended a matinee performance opening weekend at McCaw Hall and fell in love with those frisky bohemians all over again.

Here's what you need to know about the opera, including details about the upcoming family show on Sunday, March 10.

The story: Stop me if you've heard this one — a poet, a painter, a musician and a philosopher share a crappy apartment and in walks a seamstress . . . no? La Bohème is a love story — a poor and charming artist falls for his beautiful neighbor, Mimì, a frail seamstress with frosty fingers. When she knocks on Rodolfo's door in search of help with her blown-out candle, he lights her flame, and young love ignites. Of course, since this is opera, young doomed love ignites, and the couple must grapple with jealousy, the strains of poverty and ultimately an illness that may or may not lead to a deathbed scene at the end. I don't want to spoil it for you.

07-boheme-rl-1-95The performances: These are heavy subjects, but in the hands of Stage Director, Tomer Zvulun, this opera has energy, ample touching moments and quite a few laugh-out-loud hijinks before the (possibly) tragic end. The young lovers, played by Jennifer Black as Mimì and Michael Fabiano as Rodolfo, both shine in their debut performances at the Seattle Opera. Fabiano's swagger and stage presence perfectly captures the bravado of an idealistic poet and Black's sweet but mighty soprano wins the hearts of all. Keith Phares as Marcello, the painter and Rudolfo's best friend, and his opportunistic hot-tempered lover Musetta, played by Jennifer Zetlan, almost steal the show with their on-again-off-again romance.

Arthur Woodley as Colline the philosopher, and Andrew Garland (a former Seattle Opera Young Artists) as Schaunard the musician, round out the artistic foursome with fantastic performances. Kudos goes to conductor Carlo Montanaro for bringing out the best in the music of Giacomo Puccini.

Family Day: It has been said that La Bohème is a gateway drug to an operatic addiction. Those aria pushers at the Seattle Opera are even targeting the young ones — offering a perfect opportunity for first-timers and veteran  devotees to indulge in the latest incarnation of this most beloved opera.

On Sunday, March 10, the Seattle Opera presents a Family Day matinee of La Bohème, with special kids' discounts ($15 tickets) and a day of activities, a perfect opportunity to dip your kids' toes in the operatic waters. Two intermissions break up the approximate running time of 2 hours and 40 minutes, making it doable for any kid capable of sitting through an average movie. (It's recommended for ages 10 and up.)

If you go ...

Where/when: McCaw Hall, Seattle Center, through March 10. There are four performances left.

Family Day: Seattle Opera’s Family Day matinee is on Sunday, March 10 at 2 p.m. Adults may purchase up to four $15 youth tickets for every full-priced adult ticket. For information and tickets, buy online, call 206-389-7676 or 1-800-426-1619 or visit the ticket office at 1020 John St., Seattle.

Tickets: Regular-priced tickets start at $25.

Other special programs

Pre-performance talks. An hour and a half before every performance, in the Nesholm Family Lecture Hall at McCaw Hall. $7.

Audio-described performances for visually impaired patrons. At the performance on Saturday, March 9, patrons can request an audio-description headset which will provide verbal information about the opera’s setting, scenery, costumes, onstage action, and more. Seattle Opera has worked in consultation with the Washington Council for the Blind and Arts and Visually Impaired Audiences to develop this program. Free.

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