Celebrating love at New Orleans Opera’s ‘La Bohéme’

Maiya Tate, Editor in Chief

When the New Orleans Opera invited The Tulane Hullabaloo to see their most recent production of “La Bohéme,” a famous opera by Giacomo Puccini, I was worried we wouldn’t be able to do it justice. As a performer, I of course was familiar with Puccini’s famous opera. But, I had never had the pleasure of being exposed to a performance of the masterpiece. So, I took a friend and fellow copy editor, who had a deep love for the show, Madeleine Draper.

Draper and I have been friends since we were both copy editors for The Hullabaloo. When I told her I was a little worried about being invited to the opera as someone who didn’t have a vast knowledge of it, she brightened and told me how much she loved “La Bohéme.” I asked her if she would like to come with me, and she said yes.

As we were getting a backstage tour of the beautiful Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts from the NOO Director of External Affairs Janet Wilson, she asked us if we had ever seen “La Boheme” before. I, a little embarrassed, admitted I had never gotten the chance. I turned to Draper, who I assumed had, but she said no — she had only ever listened to the score. To my surprise, I was even happier that we were experiencing this together.

“La Bohéme,” a story of love and loss set in Paris in the 1830s, follows a group of struggling bohemians as they beautifully sing their way through poverty and love. The performance at the Mahalia Jackson was principled by Yongzhao Yu as Rodolfo, the bohemian playwright who falls in love with Mimi, played by Vanessa Isiguen. They were accompanied by Zachary Nelson and Kearstin Piper Brown, who performed the part of tumultuous lovers Marcello and Musetta respectively. The performance was wonderfully designed through sets and costumes, and details that warmed my New Orleans native heart, such as the marching band that comes into the square in Act II — members from Warren Easton Charter High School in familiar purple and gold uniforms.

While listening to these performers melodious voices, I was struck by the duetto that ends the first act, entitled “O soave fanciulla.” It is one of the most famous duets of the opera, and is performed by Mimi and Rodolfo as they profess their love for each other.

When the lights went up after the end for the first intermission, I turned to Draper to tell her how I had almost shed a tear at how heartfelt that duet actually was. But she beat me to it, telling me how it was one of the first pieces from this opera she had heard at a concert series back home. She said she was actually struck speechless by the duet, utterly transfixed on the singers performing it. Yu and Isiguen similarly entrapped me in their operatic notes, my heart leaping up as Isiguen hit the famous high C at the end of the duet.

I could not have asked for a better first opera performance to experience. And seeing it with a dear friend who loves opera made the experience all the more enjoyable.

To see when the next performance by NOO will be, visit their website to stay up to date!

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