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Puccini’s "La Boheme" Outdoors at the Met Opera's Summer HD Festival
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Puccini’s "La Boheme" Outdoors at the Met Opera's Summer HD Festival

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Puccini’s La Bohème
Summer HD Festival
(Summer HD Festival Web Page)
At the
Metropolitan Opera
(Met Opera Website)

Outdoors at the
Metropolitan Opera House

Kristine Opolais as Mimi
Susanna Phillips as Musetta
Vittorio Grigolo as Rodolfo
Massimo Cavalletti as Marcello
Patrick Carfizzi as Schaunard
Oren Gradus as Colline
Donald Maxwell as Benoit/Alcindoro
Conductor, Stefano Ranzani

Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Libretto: Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa
Production: Franco Zeffirelli
Set Designer: Franco Zeffirelli
Costume Designer: Peter J. Hall
Lighting Designer: Gil Wechsler
Live in HD Director: Barbara Willis-Sweete
Music Producer: Jay David Saks

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
August 23, 2014

La Bohème (1896)
Original Recorded Production, April 5, 2014
(Read the Synopsis of La Bohème).

If it’s late August, it’s time for the Metropolitan Opera’s free, intermission-less opera films to be shown at Lincoln Center Plaza. I suggest arriving one-hour in advance for a good seat and placing something like a bag or shawl onto your seat as a marker. The acoustics are fantastic, and, when not humid or steamy, this is a wonderful way to see your favorite opera divas up close. There’s no seat at The Met that offers this level of nuanced facial gesture or emotional connection between lead stars. In fact, with Vittorio Grigolo in tonight’s role of Rodolfo, the close-ups were mesmerizing. This is the new Pavarotti. The synopsis of La Bohème is linked above. Kristine Opolais, as Mimi, was a last minute cast change, as I read online, because on the day this performance was filmed, April 5, 2014, the advertised soprano was ill. In this film, both leads appeared to have rehearsed the three Acts, but, in fact, there had been no rehearsals, and the performance was still a huge success.

Mr. Grigolo, in Act I, is playful, as he pretends to lose Mimi’s key (she’s a neighbor, and she’s immediately seen as ill, with a consumptive cough). Although I’ve seen the Rodolfo-Mimi duo with stronger chemistry in past productions, the Grigolo-Opolais combination did light an occasional spark, as Mimi sunk into Rodolfo’s waiting arms, at first hesitantly, and then eagerly. Ms. Opolais sings the Italian libretto with warmth and clarity (English supertitles are shown on screen). Mr. Grigolo, however, was the superior actor and vocalist, magnetic and seething with energy and angst. In the Latin Quarter garret, where Rodolfo lives with Marcello, Colline, and Schaunard, all bohemians, the ragged quartet burns Rodolfo’s own writings for fireplace fuel. The chemistry between this quartet of companions was strong and bonded. Schaunard is a musician, Colline a philosopher, Marcello a painter, and Rodolfo a writer.

Susanna Phillips is Musetta, Marcello’s former lover, buxom like Mimi, but dressed to impress. She lifts her ruffles, kicks up her legs, and sings her heart out in the Act II Café Momus scene. The chemistry between Musetta and Marcello (Massimo Cavalletti) is thick, and Marcello’s jealousy at seeing Musetta with her wealthy suitor, a huffy, puffy Alcindoro (Donald Maxwell), is pronounced. Ms. Phillips sings a rich soprano, and her Musetta’s Waltz (“Quando me’n ‘vo”) resounded across the Plaza. Of the remaining cast, Oren Gradus’ Act IV solo, when, as Colline, he sells his only coat at Christmas time for medicine for Mimi, was a luscious bass, while Massimo Cavalletti’s (Marcello) duos with Mimi and Musetta were ebullient baritone. Donald Maxwell, as the landlord, Benoit, and as Musetta’s suitor, Alcindoro, sang in vibrant bass. Patrick Carfizzi, as Schaunard, a baritone, was entertaining in the Act IV, spartan dinner antics.

Franco Zeffirelli’s production and scenery were spellbinding, especially in Act II, with a street festival in front of Café Momus that shifts to Café dining and wining. The Act III garden scene, when Mimi and Rodolfo sing of leaving each other, unaware the other is listening, and then make a plan to stay together till after the cold and snow, was extraordinary and visually magnetic. Peter J. Hall’s bright red, ruffled dress for Musetta, with its low cut neckline, was stunning, in contrast to the pale pastels that the impoverished and ill Mimi wore. Gil Wechsler’s lighting was especially magical in the Act II evening scene, with snow and moonlight. Stefano Ranzani made the Met Orchestra sing, and, on film, the audience is awarded close-ups of the orchestra before each Act, as they play the overtures and interludes. Kudos to the Met Opera for providing the Summer HD Festival. The live in HD Series continues throughout the year, indoors, in selected movie theaters on specific calendar dates.

Vittorio Grigolo in Puccini's "La Bohème"
Courtesy of Met Opera Website

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at