A near full house welcomed Kentucky Opera's opening night performance of local and universal favorite, "La Boheme," Giacomo Puccini's romantic tragedy of young love among struggling, starving artists in the Paris of 1830.
The young, talented seamstress Mimi lives in the building where the aspiring poet Rodolfo and his friend, Marcello, a painter, share a drab, chilly studio. Then one Christmas Eve in the days before central heating and electricity, she ﬁnds herself in the hall with a candle that the chilly air extinguishes. In panic,' she knocks on the door of the studio though she and Rodolfo have not met before. They are immediately attracted to each other but their romance does not run smoothly. He is penniless; she is ill with tuberculosis. Troubles also afflict the love of Marcello and his girl Musetta. Rudolfo is an ardent but jealous lover, causing a separation from Mimi. Musetta ﬁnds her returning to Rudolfo when her illness is proving to be terminal. She dies in his apartment.
Local favorite Edith Davis scored another triumph as Mimi. Richard Drews returns to acclaim for his portrayal of Rudolfo.
Newcomers Elizabeth Futral and John Hancock are very believable as the vivacious but generous Musetta and the ardent Marcello. Conductor Lawrence Leighton Smith lavished exquisite care on what is clearly his favorite opera. David Gano's sets were extremely realistic whether he was presenting the poverty of the garret or the lively Christmas Eve festivities in the square outside the Cafe Momas. The latter scene was enlivened by 18 Lexington youngsters who were added to the chorus under the capable direction of David Berger. H. Charles Schmidt continues to design lighting which adds to the realism of the performance.
La Boheme is a work on which Puccini and his two librettists, Giacosa and Illica, spent three years and nine months. Still, it was not universally acclaimed when it premiered before the Italian royal family and others at Turin on February 1, 1896. That was not the case this year in Louisville when local critic Bill Mootz rated it a near-perfect performance.