top of page

La bohème

Directed by: Fenlon Lamb

Music by: Giacomo Puccini

Libretto by: Luigi Illica & Giuseppe Giacosa

Original Production

April 2022 - New Orleans Opera



Steven Kemp - Set Designer

Danielle Domingue Sumi - Costume Designer

Don Darnutzer - Lighting Designer

Danyale Cook - Hair & Make-up Designer


Joseph Colanieri - Conductor

Vanessa Isiguen - Mimi

Yongzhao Yu - Rudolfo

Zachary Nelson - Marcello

Kearstin Piper Brown - Musetta

Christian Zaremba - Colline

Spencer Reichman - Schaunard

Director's Note

About 25 years ago, I sang one of the milkmaids in La Bohème for a summer festival in Washington D.C.  I had very little connection to or experience with this masterpiece and from my limited vantage point I couldn’t understand the allure of the most popular, most performed opera in the world. It was a means to an end, one of my first gigs, some summer pocket change for a jaded college student. As far as I could tell it was the usual bill of fare: boy meets girl, large crowd scene with fun and hijinks ensues, followed by sickness and a quarrel with the inevitable death of the soprano soon after. Why was everyone so enamored with this seemingly run-of-the-mill, Italian opera?  


In actuality, when La Bohème premiered in 1896 at the Teatro Regio in Turin, the critics’ response was quite underwhelming. Next to the weightiness of Wagner’s mythological and epic operas, this pedestrian subject matter and Puccini’s orchestration choices came off as fluffy and unimportant. “Just as La Bohème does not leave much impression in the mind of the listeners, it will not leave much impression on the history of our lyric theater,” opined the critic Carlo Bersezio. Others agreed and one critic went as far as to beg Puccini to return to “the great and difficult battles of art.” It wasn’t until several weeks after the premiere that the entire audience in Palermo refused to leave the theater and demanded a repeat of the last scene in its entirety. Here, finally, was the key to appreciating this achingly beautiful and poignant love story with its soaring melodies and commonplace subjects. The genius lay in the intimacy and the human connections and relations played out in the opera; the audience could see their own struggles and triumphs. 


Puccini’s publisher, G. Ricordi, whole-heartedly believed in the success of La Bohème and swore that if the opera hadn’t succeeded “in hitting the nail squarely on the head, I will change my profession and sell salami.”  After my initial doubts about the opera so many years ago, I won’t go so far as to change my career now in atonement but I absolutely have to join Ricordi’s sentiments and swear my allegiance to this sublime piece of theater. What better subject for an opera than all the small things that make up a life? The chance meeting of two neighbors, a Christmas Eve celebration with friends, the arguments and frustrations expressed between two sets of lovers and the sacrifice and support given to a dying friend…all of these simple but powerful moments supported by Puccini’s amazingly direct music get right to the heart of the human experience.  


Henri Murger provided the source material for this exquisite tragedy in his serialized vignettes Scènes de la vie de bohème and described Bohemia as a district in the department of the Seine bordered on the North by hope, work and gaiety, on the South by necessity and courage, on the West and East by slander and the hospital; an apt description of the artist’s way of thinking and a wonderful entrée into this opera. As a fly on the wall, we have an intimate glimpse into the trials and tribulations of these young Bohemians who understand that braving cold and hunger is nothing compared to the spoils of a life following their passions and that hope and love are the very foundations of a life well-lived.  




bottom of page