Anyone who has watched Pretty Woman knows that, according to Edward Lewis, “People’s reactions to opera the first time they see it is very dramatic. They either love it or they hate it.” As I sat down in a small church for an intimate performance of La Boheme, I feared my reaction would be that of the latter. I’m not exactly accustomed to being sung at loudly in foreign languages, and here I was with a front row seat. My roommate had convinced me to go, promising cheap seats and a fun night out. My acceptance stemmed from both curiosity and the desire not to be left out. Perhaps these were not the best reasons, but they brought me there all the same.
For those unfamiliar with the opera, it was the inspiration for the famous Broadway play, Rent. The storyline is quite similar, involving characters struggling to survive due to their career choices. As a college student, especially one studying art, this is quite relatable.
The opera was performed by five actors, one of whom doubled as narrator. The scene varied only by the addition or subtraction of strategically placed chairs, and the costumes were changed only once. The setting lacked grandeur, but that was forgotten when the singing began. Music echoed throughout the chapel—notes built from an internal instrument I could never imagine possessing. The lyrics were Italian, but the emotions the singersdisplayed more than told the story. It was similar to ballet, in which dancers use physical movement to convey emotion and action. In La Boheme, the intonation of their voices was explanation enough, although it helped that we had an English narrator.
During intermission, the actors sold wine in small flutes. The proceeds went to a children’s charity, further proving that the performance was a project of the heart instead of a full-time job. In my opinion, this made it even better. These actors spent all their free time perfecting their interpretation of a famous opera simply to display it to an audience of 20.
I would not say I have become infatuated with the opera, but I certainly have a renewed appreciation for the art. The ability to sing in such a way is truly a gift; there were moments when I was moved to tears for no other reason than the beauty of the songs rendition. The opera isn’t for everyone, but I believe everyone should give it at least one chance.