WNO’s “La Boheme”

Soprano Jacqueline Echols (center, right) plays Musetta; bass Peter Rose (center, left) plays Alcindoro. Courtesy of Washington National Opera

By Sheila Wickouski

La Boheme, the treasure in the opera repertoire, will be screened in the  Washington National Opera  (WNO) production for the  #OperaInTheOutfield  broadcast at Nationals Park on Saturday, September 30, 2023.

Gates will open at 5:00 p.m. for pre-opera activities including photo opportunities, prizes and performances by local artists. The opera will be screened on the high definition scoreboard at 7:00 p.m, with free seating available on the outfield grass (weather permitting) and in the stands.

Giacomo Puccini’s La Boheme is  an opera for everyone, with estimates of 600 performances a year. In popular film, it is the opera that Nicholas Cage takes Cher to in Moonstruck that allows him to make his case of love. It is the inspiration behind  Rent, one of the longest running  Broadway musicals.    

This  production to be presented at Nationals Park opened at the Kennedy Center in May at  the WNO  annual gala.  This public screening for thousands to view promises to be delightful.

Puccini wrote the opera in 1896,  setting it in Paris in the 1830’s. The opera is in French, with easy-to-follow English titles. The event will be fully captioned.

The WNO  production places the action in post-World War I Paris. The  revolutionary artistic spirit, true love and the lurking specter of death and disease in this story are ageless.  

The fragile, gentle Mimi (soprano Gabriella Reyes)  and Rudolfo (tenor Kang Wang)  are the doomed  pair of lovers. The painter Marcello (Gihoon Kim), the musician Schaunard (Blake Denson), and the philosopher Colline (Peixin Chen) are their friends. The versatile Peter Rose appears  in cameo roles as the landlord  Benoit collecting rent and then as Alcindoro, Musetta’s sugar daddy.  The international cast includes Russian conductor Alevtina Ioffe.

Between the tender meeting of Mimi and Rudolfo in Act I and the tragic events at the end is the show-stopping scene at the Cafe Momus. Soprano Jacqueline Echols takes over as  flamboyant Musetta to tease her estranged lover Marcello.  Waiters play matador with table linens as she performs one of the most energetic opera scenes that contains the joy de vivre of famous  moments from other top operas of the time, like Carmen and La Traviata

Musetta and Marcello will reunite after this joyous outburst, but Mimi and Rudolfo’s ending is one of the saddest moments in all opera. Mimi’s demise from the dreadful disease of tuberculosis and consumption is one that especially strikes the hearts of those who have experienced the loss of a loved one in the  deathly tolls of the recent pandemic.  

The evening in the stadium promises great opera  with its story and music sharing the joy and sadness that comes in life with love. See you at the opera!

More information is available at OperaintheOutfield.org.

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