La Boheme

The Minnesota Opera delivers classics as well as daring innovators

A performance of La Boheme.
La Bohéme

photo by john grigaitis

In interviewing Mark Campbell, the librettist for the Minnesota Opera’s 2016 adaptation of The Shining, I learned something remarkable: Minnesota is one of the foremost staging grounds for new works in opera, more receptive in some cases than New York. And what a happy circumstance that is; the night I attended the Stephen King adaptation about a spooky mountainside hotel and its various ghosts, the audience seemed to be predominately young people. (How often can you say that?) Hopefully some of that audience might return for a classic such as Puccini’s La Bohème. After all, it’s about a bunch of impoverished, emotionally unstable, and self-glamorizing artists—if that doesn’t speak to a young person, then I was never young. But more importantly, it’s a truly accessible and captivating classic in the right hands, a vessel for human voice and classical instruments that captures pain, fear, loss, and our fleeting struggle for warmth and meaning in a sometimes-inhospitable world. 

La Bohème also inspired the mega-hit Rent, which turned it into a gentrification parable—how better, really, to bring it into a new century? I don’t think Rent holds up as well as its inspiration, which feels as though it takes place in an abstract idea space rather than in a tenement with youngsters debating the merits of trying to jump into the NYC rat race to grab a seat on the gravy train (stop that metaphor!). And you certainly don’t have to be young to appreciate it—just still have a sense that beauty, for its own sake, is sometimes more than enough.

“La Boheme”
The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts