University Opera tells a tale of love and loss in their new production of Puccini’s La Boheme
On February 1, 1896, a Turin, Italy audience gathered at Teatro Reglo to witness the premiere of the latest work by composer Giacomo Puccini. An immediate success, the opera, La Boheme, quickly found its way into opera repertory and remains there to this day. This weekend, the University Opera at UW-Madison presents a beautifully reimagined production at the Wisconsin Union Theatre.
“We’re used to singing in the Music Hall at the University, which seats 300 plus people,” explained Boheme director David Ronis in a recent phone interview. “Expanding into the Union Theatre is really exciting. We now have a larger space to work with as well as a theatre that seats over 1,100 people!” The production, which has been rehearsing since mid-November, features a large cast of UW students, staff and community artists who bring a rich pool of talent to the iconic opera score.
Set in Paris around 1840, four artists Rodolfo, Colline, Schaunard, and Marcello live a true Bohemian lifestyle in a small garret in the city. Despite their meager conditions, they live a content life. Things take an interesting twist early in the opera with Mimi, another tenant in the building, arrives and asks for Rodolfo to light a candle for her. In true operatic fashion and beautiful lyricism, the two quickly fall in love, setting the stage for the rest of the opera.
Mimi and Rodolfo are the central couple in the story but there are is also a secondary couple, Marcello and Musetta, who follow a love story of their own throughout the opera. “This opera stands the test of time because of the central themes it portrays, “explained Ronis. “Everyone has felt those core emotion of love for another person and the wrenching feeling of loss that accompanies losing someone that they love.”
The opera features a number of well-known melodies and arias, perhaps the most famous being the Act II aria “Quando m’en vo’” (also known as “Musetta’s Waltz.) A delightful addition to the production is the addition of children’s chorus, who appear in Act II, which takes place on Christmas Eve.
“We have strived to create a production that is all our own,” explained Ronis. “For instance, we have set our Boheme in 1925, which was a veritable hot bed for poets, artists, and musicians coming to Paris from all over the world.” In addition, as Ronis points out, the set creates its own dynamic. “Our set designer (Joseph Varga) did an incredible job of creating a set that is not a traditional literal set. This means, that both outdoor and indoor scenes are encompassed in a single set design. The result has been quite beautiful.”
Performances are one weekend only at the Wisconsin Union Theatre. Friday and Saturday performance (Feb 22 and 23rd) will take place at 7:30pm with a matinee on Sunday the 24th at 3pm. Attendees are encouraged to arrive early to find parking. Tickets for this production are very cost friendly! For UW students, they are only $10 and for non-UW students, they are $15. Regular seating is between $30-$38. “We’re incredibly proud of this production, “added Ronis. “This is one that you will not want to miss!” Tickets can be purchased in-person on on-line at: https://union.wisc.edu/index.php/events-and-activities/event-calendar/event/la-boheme