Puccini's La Bohéme at OC Performing Artscenter

La Boheme is everything an opera should be. It makes you laugh, it makes you cry - it makes you squirm around in your seat because your neck hurts trying to read the subtitles blazoned above the stage. It is also a great way to discover a new scent of "old lady" perfume and provides an excuse to inquire politely, "Wow, I couldn't help but notice how lovely your perfume smells! What is it?" And just for a few hours you know what it's like to mingle with the elderly elite of Orange County. My mind couldn't help but wander before the lights grew dim, "How many of these folks might have actually seen Maria Callas in concert?" One woman named Connie - whom I had the pleasure of sitting next to, said she hadn't but, "Oh my dear, if you're ever in New York - go see the Metropolitan! It's magnificent!" Add to this, the fact that your seats are so perfectly located that you can almost see pores in the performers' faces - thank you Ms. Loesch.

La Boheme is the perfect mix of hilarious comedy (sprinkled with slap-stick) but deeply marinated in the kind of love that is nothing short of rapturous and all consuming.

A struggling poet falls in love with a seamstress who is looking for a light. Her candle has gone out - it's cold and dark - they fall in love but there's a problem: the poor girl is sick and hasn't long to live. Puccini makes you fall for these characters because they are just like us. They fall in love; they feel heartache, jealousy and fear. Yet they can laugh it all off with a dance and an overflowing cup of wine.

I don't think Kelly Kaduce (Mimi) could've delivered a more impeccable performance - her voice was crystal clear, unwavering and her interpretation of "Si. Mi chiamano Mimi" had me choking back some serious emotions. Perhaps it was Puccini's vision of love as something so profound, so "meant to be", so naive and trusting (bathed in moonlight) that had me frantically reaching for my Grandma's packet of Kleenex.

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Whatever it was, each performer owned every ounce of their character's soul and emotion; and unlike the other operas I have had the pleasure of attending - the romance between Mimi ( gorgeous Kelly Kaduce) and Rodolfo ( Arturo Chacón-Cruz - you're soo adorable! ) was very convincing and electric.

Overall, I feel the opera's success rests in Puccini's keen ability to reveal the depth of each characters personality. In the beginning we might have seen Musetta ( Megan Monaghan ) as nothing more than a shameless seductress, throwing plates around at the high scale establishment of Cafe Momus - yet, in the end, her heart is humbled as she sells off her prized jewelry in the hopes that a doctor will be able to save Mimi, who is on her death bead. Puccini draws the viewer inside the character's private sphere - we danced, we laughed, we poured the wine, we laughed some more. Now, as Mimi struggles with her last breath- a part of us dies with her.

Too deep?

Fine. Maybe I am just a romantic sap. Regardless, you still have one more night left to experience this masterpiece of an opera.

La Bohéme by Giacomo Puccini at the Orange County Performing Artscenter (Segerstrom Hall) 3 November @ 7:30 p.m. Ticket Services: 714.556.2787


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