Last night I watched the second in the series of recordings of earlier live-streamed performances of New York Metropolitan Opera productions, this one being the 2008 staging of La Boheme about the lives of poor, young, romantic artists in Paris. Apparently the recent hit Broadway musical Rent was based on this opera. Although it was moving, I did not enjoy it quite as much as I did Carmen the previous day. One thing I noticed was that in this opera, the singers took curtain calls at the end of each act, rather than only at the end of the opera. I thought this odd but maybe it is not unusual for some operas. I had also been under the impression that the audience would shower the female leads with bouquets of flowers at the end but that did not happen in either of these two operas. Maybe that is an opera cliché that is no longer operative or maybe it happens in other countries and not the US.
On the plus side, this time they had subtitles, so I could follow the story better, though the subtitles gave up on the occasions when singers sang in harmony but with different words, as happens in operas. But on the minus side, the tone of this opera was more sad and melancholy. As with much of music, one’s appreciation increases with repeated listening and there was only one aria that was familiar to me, the one sung by Musetta in the Act II, unlike in Carmen where there were many rousing arias that have become so familiar to the general public as stand-alone songs. The mood in the two operas was very different because the title character in Carmen was a fiery, vivacious woman, with flashing eyes and a mischievous attitude who toyed with the many men who could not resist her while Mimi, the lead in La Boheme, was a wan and sickly figure.
The scale of this production was impressive. They had recreated Franco Zeffirelli’s original production of 1982 and it was on an epic scale. The sets were large and elaborate (there were 80 people involved in changing the sets between acts) so that the backstage area (which we were shown in the breaks between the acts) was huge, like another theater in itself. And although there were just six main characters, the total cast was enormous with well over a hundred people in the street scene in Act II. This included a large number of middle-school age children (as was also the case in Carmen) which made me wonder how they managed to stay up so late night after night and still get their school work done.
It must take the massive resources of organizations like the Met to mount such an elaborate production and I assume that tickets are expensive in order to cover the costs. That is unfortunate because it will deprive many people who love opera of the chance of experiencing live performances. On the other hand, their decision to stream these operas for free will provide many people with the chance to see them and it looks like people are taking advantage of the opportunity. Yesterday, I was put in a queue for six minutes before the streaming started and I expect the queuing time will get longer as the word gets around.
Now on to today’s streaming of the 2015 production of Verdi’s Il Trovatore, unless the servers crash from the overload.