The cultural highlight of our spring here was the Boston Opera Collaborative La Bohème. Part of what made it so great was the comparatively small venue, a craft brewery in Jamaica Plain. Instead of thousands of elderly people falling asleep there were about 60 audience members, at least 20 years younger than the median age for the big opera houses.
The orchestra was small, but didn’t sound thin. (conductor: Beatrice Jona Affron) We have supertitles on flat-screen TVs. The acoustics were remarkably good. Maybe if the hall is small the engineering constraints can be relaxed?
Being so much closer to the singers it was possible to appreciate their acting and also understand more about the technique. The audience was visibly far more engaged than at a big opera venue.
As the audience was younger than at the Met, so too were the singers, all of whom seemed to be in their mid-20s. Fausto Miro and Junhan Choi were wonderful as Rodolfo and Marcello. Abigail Krawczynska was appropriately bewitching as Musetta. Sarah Cooper sang Mimi beautifully.
La Bohème contains a scene that ties right into today’s news. The young attractive Musetta hangs around the elderly rich Alcindoro and extracts cash from him. This role, along with that of Benoit, the confused landlord, was acted and sung well by Matthew Stansfield, but he was not convincingly elderly when viewed up close. That’s one limitation of “opera in the small”: the performers need to match the roles more closely than when the average audience member is 200′ away.
One suburban couple: “We would go to opera every night if it were like this.”
Readers: What do you think? In an age where everything can be captured and streamed, as with the excellent Metropolitan Opera performances in movie theaters, would it make sense to say that live opera should be done in small halls? This might be the only way to keep the art form vibrant for the next generation.
- La Broheme (updated libretto)
- Seattle Opera Beatrice and Benedict Review (traditional)
- Metropolitan Opera La Traviata at the movie theater (modern tech)