Six-word summary of your job/duties/what you do: supporting philanthropic culture of the company
Describe the best or most rewarding part of your job: Getting to meet so many wonderful people!
Your all-time favorite opera or theatrical production: I honestly can’t choose, they are all amazing 🙂
Your unofficial position in the company (e.g. ‘class clown’, ‘bouncer’, etc.): “Lounge Bouncer” according to some of our patrons
Your secret talent: yoga enthusiast
Create a super-hero persona based on your position in the company: I am going to go with Robin as in Batman and Robin, I’m kind of like Jessica’s sidekick.
Outside of the office you can be found doing….: spending time with my family and friends, traveling, dancing, practicing yoga, binge watching TV shows, working out, FaceTiming with my besties back in LA
What is it about this story that still touches us? I think it all boils down to the fact that this story makes us believe in love. I know that sounds cheesy, stay with me. I came to Omaha not really liking this opera, if I’m completely honest. I just didn’t get it! I’ve worked on this show before and I’ve been in it twice. (I was the worst Alcindoro ever!)
Even being around this opera so much, I never understood what Puccini was trying to convey. My perception was that it was just a big overblown opera with lots of people, a million props and no real core. Now I get it. These characters are the people we all secretly want to be. They are young vibrant artists who choose poetry, music and art over money and an endless life of adulting. They feel deeply and passionately. They live for art and love. Through the Bohemians, Puccini reminds the audience of the joy and sadness of finding true love and losing it. We are all guilty of shutting ourselves off and enjoying the safety of isolation. We hide behind screens and dating apps, never willing to take the risk of experiencing the type of love portrayed in the opera.
These ideas also captured the imagination of Jonathan Larson 100 years later. He produced a modern retelling of the same story in his musical, RENT. The universality of the story of these bohemians truly experiencing life, love and hardship was still relevant to audiences in 1994 when RENT had its first performance. The Bohemians in the 90s were struggling with HIV and drug addiction instead of tuberculosis of the 1860s, but the portrayal of love is still the same. Both pieces remind audiences that Love is more important than materialism and to live for today because tomorrow is uncertain.
Why do we care? I think because we’ve all personally experienced the situations from the scenes of the opera and we can all identify with one of the different characters. I’ve had terrible breakups like Rodolfo and Mimi and I’ve been destructively in love like Marcello and Musetta. We’ve all had to say goodbye to someone we love before we were ready. This opera is real. This opera is so true to life. This production made me fall in love with this piece for the first time. It makes me want to fall in love again and I think it will have the same effect on you.
Viva la vie Bohème!
~Matthew Haney, Assistant Director, La bohème
Nov. 4 & 6, 2016
La bohème is about youth, love, poetry and survival. What makes this opera beloved now as much as 120 years ago are the characters. In them we recognize parts of ourselves and can all relate to the plight of the artist, whether or not we are artists ourselves. Our craving to feel alive and experience life at its most exciting and beautiful is reflected in the characters that Giacomo Puccini and his librettists created, inspired by Frenchman Henri Murger’s stories in the mid-19th century.
The choice of words in La bohème stem directly from Murger’s texts. Rodolfo’s famous aria “Che gelida manina” (What a cold hand) comes from Murger’s specific description of the poet’s first meeting with the grisette: “But what contributed above all to make Rodolphe madly in love with Mademoiselle Mimi were her hands, which in spite of household cares, she managed to keep as white as those of the Goddess of Idleness.” Schaunard’s arrogance, as another example, perhaps stems from his aristocratic background that, while not made obvious in the opera, is permeated throughout Murger’s compilation of stories. Musette, during personal reflection, notes, “each of my loves is a verse, but Marcel is the refrain.” The simplicity of the characters depends on their basic need to survive in their given circumstances, while at the same time seizing the moment to find pleasure, love and adventure.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of Murger’s text is the author’s own self-awareness as to what it truly means to be an artist, or rather what it should not be, and the way that is translated in Puccini’s work. In one of the final stories, Marcel reflects, “It is not enough to wear a summer coat in December to have talent; one can be a real poet or artist whilst going about well shot and eating three meals a day…we are old, my dear fellow; we have lived too fast.” In other words, an artist need not suffer. And yet there is suffering in both Murger’s words and in Puccini’s score. How poignant for Puccini to make reference to a coat, most significantly in the final moments of the opera, perhaps to highlight the discovery that material and vain concerns have no significance in defining human existence, much as Murger expressed.
What we can take away from this masterpiece in our own time is easy to pin down. La bohème survives because it is the epitome of youth tainted by harsh socio-economic realities and evokes in us a desire to be as free as the Bohemians portrayed on the stage. And with Mimi’s young demise we find ourselves lamenting Rodolfo’s loss because of our desire to find love for longer than just a passing moment. Perhaps it is the tragic conclusion of La bohème that inspires us to live each moment to the fullest. We are made aware that time is short and, in Murger’s words, “A clock is a domestic foe who implacably reckons up to your existence hour by hour, minute by minute, and says to you every moment, ‘Here is a fraction of your life gone.’”
Nov. 4 & 6, 2016
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>>Another Italian composer and rival of Puccini, Ruggiero Leoncavallo, also composed an opera titled La bohème. In a rather public meeting, Leoncavallo accused Puccini of stealing his subject material. Refusing to let go of the idea, Puccini proposed the following solution; that the public should decide which version they preferred. After ten years of co-existing in Italian theatres, Puccini’s version emerged as the favored bohemian opera.
>>At the time that it was produced, Puccini’s La bohème was considered quite risqué. Just think about it—the story centers around the open affair of Rodolfo and Mimi, and it is heavily suggested that the two are sleeping together despite being unmarried.
>>As a teenager, Puccini walked twenty miles to buy a ticket for a performance of Verdi’s Aida. He found it so inspiring that he chose to dedicate himself to the composition of opera.
>>One of the most monumental arias in La bohème can also be found on film. Just check out the score of Moonstruck, featuring Cher and Nicolas Cage.
>>One of Broadway’s most well-known musicals uses Puccini’s opera as source material. Jonathan Larson’s RENT couldn’t be more unlike La bohème upon first glance—it is, after all, a rock musical—but beyond this, the similarities are quite clear. The two works share certain musical aspects, plot, lyrics and character names. Rodolfo is embodied in the character Roger and his love interest, Mimi, retains her name in the Broadway production. The lives of poor young artists are central to each work, and both plots are driven by medical epidemics—one encounters tuberculosis in La bohème and HIV/AIDS in RENT. Musical parallels are seen in the songs “Che gelida manina” and “Light My Candle” and frequent references to “Musetta’s Waltz” are made throughout the score of RENT.
Don’t miss Opera Omaha’s La bohème!
Friday, Nov. 4, 2016, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016, 2 p.m.
Click here for tickets.
Born in on the 22nd of December 1858 in Tuscany, Giacomo Antonia Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini was one of nine children and part of a musical dynasty established by his great-great grandfather. The young Puccini began his musical education at an early age, tutored first by his uncles, he then came to study under the composers Antonio Bazzini and Amilcare Ponchielli at the Milan Conservatory. Following the death of his mother in 1884, Puccini moved to Monza, a town near Milan, bringing with him his sweetheart, Elvira Gemignani, who happened to be married to another man. In 1886 Puccini and Elvira had a son, Antonio, and the family increased again in size as Elvira’s daughter, Fosca, came to live with the pair. In 1891 the family moved to Torre del Lago, a fishing village in Tuscany, where Giacomo and Elvira were legally married in 1904, following the death of her previous husband. Although the union would continue to be riddled with affairs, Puccini found a personal refuge in the Italian countryside, where he could freely drive automobiles and pursue his love of hunting. In 1924 another passion of Puccini’s would become the cause of his death—a longtime consumption of Toscano cigars and cigarettes encouraged the growth of a serious throat cancer. Following a difficult surgery, Giacomo Puccini passed away on November 29th in Brussels, clutching the incomplete score of his famed Turandot.
A predominant composer of late-Romantic Opera, Puccini is best known for his works Madama Butterfly, Tosca and Turandot, as well as his famous La bohème. Yet Puccini also created eight other operas, including the stunning La fanciulla del West produced by Opera Omaha last season, as well as sacred and secular music for orchestra and chamber ensembles, and songs for voice and piano. Puccini is notable for composing in the “verismo” style a sort of musical realism that utilizes average men and women as its subject matter, and seeks to integrate the underlying drama of the libretto with the music of written in the orchestral score. Puccini also strove to keep his music up-to-date with current trends by incorporating symphonic and harmonic aspects of French and German music into his own work. For example, the vocal lines of Puccini’s operas are much more “through-composed” or integrated with the orchestral music and plot than their Italian predecessors, most of which relied heavily on the aria-recitative formula. Puccini also drew on folk melodies for inspiration, notably in the opera Turandot.
As is the case with any composer, the events of the world around him inspired Puccini’s writing and informed the content of his operas. The 19th century is marked by the growing international influence of the British, Russian, and German Empires alongside the development of the United States into a world power. With the increased prominence of these countries emerged distinct national styles of composition, notably the French, German and Italian camps, which Puccini would later utilize as resources to inform his own operatic works. Increased ease of communication and transportation (the first commercial automobile sale in 1886 and the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869) would also make it easy for Puccini to encounter new musical styles.
Personal experience informed many aspects of Puccini’s characters and plots, though others relied more heavily on the skill of his librettist. In fact, many scholars and friends of the composer note the marked similarities between La bohème and Puccini’s own life as a young man in Milan. The poverty that underscores the life of the famous operatic Bohemians is so poignant, perhaps due to Puccini’s personal experience in this area. As a conservatory student, prior to the success of Manon Lescaut that rocketed the composer to the world stage, Puccini became very familiar with almost constant shortages of food, clothing and money, frequently pawning off his possessions to cover basic expenses.
Nov. 4 & 6, 2016
Click here for tickets.
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