Today, we celebrate the birthday of a composer who gave us such classic operas. Try to keep your eyes dry and your hands warm.
Today is the 162nd anniversary of Puccini’s birth, and what better way to mark the occasion than with an opera where half of the action takes place on Christmas Eve.
While, however, Acts I and II of La bohème may occur on the same evening, it is the latter that conjures up the archetypal Christmas card image of a bustling, festive Paris. We may be so familiar with the scene that it is easy to forget just how complex some of the chorus writing is (a children’s chorus also appears), and how difficult it is for any conductor to keep everything together. The fact that most major opera houses consistently nail it is more reflective of their own high standards than of the ease of the music, although they are helped by the fact La bohème is so frequently performed that most chorus members will be incredibly familiar with it.
Much as ‘Aranci, datteri! Caldi i marroni!’ is enjoyable, however, the highlight has to be when all eyes fall on the feisty Musetta for ‘Quando me’n vo’. Opera is full of examples of ageing men attempting to stand between young lovers, but in the second half of the act Musetta finds a way to get rid of her older man so she can be with Marcello without it consuming the entire plot!