As a Millennial, you have to believe me when I tell you that I have not been to the opera, and I have barely even considered myself the type of person who attends the opera. Even with Christie Marcy’s foolproof tips for opera first timers, I have this belief that I will show up as a total fish out of water. I’m told this is a common experience for first time opera goers, so maybe I won’t be alone.
Tomorrow night, Utah Opera, joined by the Utah Symphony, will open their run of Puccini’s La bohème, perhaps one of the most well known and respected operas. Celebrating their 40th anniversary, the Utah Opera is bringing back this classic show as it was also the first show ever produced by the company. Plus, as Stage Director Kathleen Clawson says, “I don’t think you can go wrong with bohème.”
For those unfamiliar with the show, the Utah Opera is adapting this “depiction of struggling bohemians navigating love, life, and death in turn-of-the-century Paris.” Though, Conductor Robert Tweten believes it is so much more than that: “[Bohème] is so emotionally gratifying, musically gratifying and it’s a masterpiece. I think those of us who have been around it for decades still find incredible richness and joy.” And Clawson couldn’t agree more. “You immediately connect to it no matter who are or where you are in your life,” she says.
The opera has been a hit for over a century, and Clawson believes it’s enduring popularity is owed to its subject matter. “The tradition of opera and theatre was the stories of kings and queens and fantasy or magic, and you would be removed from that, watching it from a distance. But the characters of La bohème are us. It’s people just like you and me who have dreams, fall in love, have friendships, lose something important to them,” she says.
If the story isn’t impressive enough for you, Tweten believes the music alone is worth the experience. “The music is spectacular. Puccini’s music is so rich and colorful. Vocally he was a master because he finds a way of giving incredible melodies that also seem like realistic speech. He knows how to manipulate our emotions in the best possible way,” he says.
If, like me, you’re apprehensive about attending the opera, Clawson recommends you bring someone with you to help enhance the experience. “[Bohème] is the sort of story that would be a blockbuster film. This is really the perfect date night,” she says. And she wouldn’t be wrong. Puccini’s opera was the inspiration behind such hits as Rent, Moonstruck and Moulin Rouge.
Performances of La bohème are October 7, 9, 11 and 13 at 7:30pm or October 15 at 2pm at the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre. Tickets range from $21-$103 and can be purchased at utahopera.org or by calling 801-533-6683. Don’t let the opera scare you off. See you in turn of the century Paris.