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Metropolitan Opera Preview: La Bohème

By Superconductor @ppelkonen
Everybody onstage for the classic Zeffirelli staging.

Metropolitan Opera Preview: La bohème

Upper West Side real estate. Sleeps four. Act I of La bohème.
Photo by Ken Howard © 2010 The Metropolitan Opera.

It's no coincidence that this short run of seven performances of Puccini's perennial favorite coincides with the arrival of Thanksgiving and the start of New York's holiday shopping season. In fact, the Met's most popular production appears with the inevitability of the seasons.
Tourism implications aside, a Bohème revival is the chance to hear an exciting young singer make his mark as Rodolfo, the poet whose doomed romance with the seamstress Mimi never fails to melt the heart. Here, it's tenor Dimitri Pittas, paired with veteran Korean soprano Hei-Kyung Hong.
Franco Zeffirelli does everything on a huge scale. The Bohemians' garret is set among realistic-looking rooftops, with an actual balcony. Act II features an entire quarter of the Latin Quarter with a realistic depiction of the Café Momus. And the Act III snowstorm could immobilize the Upper West Side.
Recording Recommendations:
RCA Victor Chorus and Orchestra cond. Sir Thomas Beecham (EMI, 1953)
Rodolfo: Jussi Björling
Mimi: Victoria de los Angeles
Marcello: Robert Merrill
Made at the Manhattan Center Studios on W. 34th St. in New York, this is the classic mono recording of Puccini's opera. Jussi Björling and Victoria de los Angeles are an ardent pair of lovers. Robert Merrill is a marvelous, characterful Marcello. A classic.
Orchestra e Coro de St. Cecillia di Roma cond. Tullio Serafin (Decca, 1959)
Rodolfo: Carlo Bergonzi
Mimi: Renata Tebaldi
Marcello: Ettore Bastianini
Veteran opera conductor Tullio Serafin leads this fine early stereo recording. Carlo Bergonzi and Renata Tebaldi lead a solid cast as the young lovers. The great Ettore Bastianini is Marcello. The cast is filled out with great singers from this era, including Fernando Corena, Cesare Siepi and Piero da Palma.
Berlin Philharmonic cond. Herbert von Karajan (Decca, 1973)
Rodolfo: Luciano Pavarotti
Mimi: Mirella Freni
Marcello: Rolando Panerai
For Pavarotti lovers, this is one of his great recordings, pairing the Italian tenor with his frequent collaborators, soprano Mirella Freni and conductor Herbert von Karajan. This performance is a little slower, with the German orchestra playing with a slightly heavy touch, but it remains competitive.

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