16 February 2017

Giacomo Puccini's La Bohème

Giacomo Puccini is a composer that I wasn't familiar with until recently. Mostly because of the fact that I was trained as a classical pianist, I just don't bump too often into his music. Aside from the fact that I visited his hometown and museum once, I don't know much about him. But this changed recently, when I started going to operas. My first opera was Madama Butterfly, which I saw when I was visiting Bergen. And while I was in Budapest late last year, I saw my third opera, which was La Bohème.

La Bohème is one of the standards in Italian opera. And after seeing this performance, I could see why. It's a tragedy, someone dies at the end, and there's a strong lead tenor and soprano role. There are plenty of duets, as well as hard-hitting arias. If performed correctly, this one would definitely captivate an audience.

I definitely liked the fact that there were plenty of scenes where there were multiple things going on. Sometimes, there were even multiple duets juxtaposed with each other, that one cannot listen to both of them at the same time, and therefore the audience needs to focus on one of them. But then, that's life isn't it? Multiple things happen at once, multiple conversations, multiple events, and Puccini somehow managed to transform these multiple event juxtapositions into music, and have multiple melodies that somehow harmonize with each other brilliantly. I thought that was a neat trick.

I also liked the fact that this was an "old-school" opera. People's costumes and the set design was set in 1830, as the story was set in 1830 in Paris. When I saw Madama Butterfly, I was slightly disappointed because they modernized the set, setting it somehow in 21st century Hong Kong rather than in Nagasaki in 1904. And when I saw Richard Strauss' Elektra, that was presented in an abstract modernist fashion. So as much as I liked modern music, I felt like I would have appreciated those modern performances more if I have seen an old-school opera like this one first.

It was also interesting to see an opera in the Hungarian State Opera House. I actually visited the building with a guided tour a year ago, and so it was interesting to see the inside of the grandiose building again, by watching a performance. Because it was an opera, we had to dress up a little, and I suppose that was part of the fun.

Anyway, I think I am liking this art form more and more. Berlin has several opera houses and therefore it would be easy to see another performance in the future.

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