Sounds of Learning Guide: LA BOHEME

Page 1






WELCOME Welcome to Opera Philadelphia. We are so glad that you will soon be joining us at Philadelphia’s Academy of Music for the final dress rehearsal of Giacomo Puccini's opera La bohème. Whether this is your first time attending an opera or your hundredth, we are so excited to have you. Seeing an opera can be a thrilling experience as it tells stories using all of the art forms – music, dance, theater, visual art, and more. While the music and text of opera may have been written centuries ago, the stories are still meaningful today. We hope this guide will allow you to connect with opera and La bohème. How might a character in La bohème relate to you or to a person in your own life? What similarities or differences are there? In what ways can you see yourself being a part of opera – whether it be on stage or off ? Your unique experience is important to us and is likely to be different from that of your friends, classmates, and teachers. That’s okay! How great is it that we can all have different feelings and opinions about the same piece of art? When you return to school, consider sparking conversations with your classmates about the opera. Opera can be dynamic and engaging but also complex and confusing. Unpacking what you’ve just seen and hearing from others is a great way to appreciate opera even more. As you find your seat in the Academy of Music, remember that this historic theater is a part of your community and there for you. Enjoy the opera and take in all it has to offer. In the end, we’ll know that we have done our job if you leave feeling both inspired and full of self-discovery. Welcome to our family.

G O A L S A N D O B J E C T I V E S of Sounds of Learning D ress Rehearsal P rog ram Connect with the plot or themes

Connect something from your exploration of opera to your own personal stories

Draw conclusions about the effectiveness of the story presentation

Experience the opera with an open mind

Analyze, synthesize, and evaluate what you have learned or experienced during the challenge

Use the Sounds of Learning blog to reflect on your experience and provide insights about your journey

Best Practices in Arts Education is sponsored by Pennsylvania Alliance for Arts Education, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Pennsylvania Department of Education

TA B L E O F Contents O P E R A 101 Defining Opera Throughout History 2 Philadelphia's Academy of Music 4 Opera Etiquette 5 Operatic Voice Types 6 The Language of Opera 8

H I ST O R I C A L C O N T E X T The Man Behind the Music: Giacomo Puccini What in the World?: Events During Puccini's Life Puccini's Early Poverty and Political Beliefs Impressionism: A Time for Change in the Arts

9 10 11 12

P R O D U C T I O N I N F O R M AT I O N La bohème: Cast and Creative Team 14 La bohème: Synopsis 15

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES A Bohemian Named Mimì 16 Character Analysis Pyramid 17 Color Your Own Van Gogh Sunflowers 18 Write a Review of the Opera 19 Meet the Artists Backstage 20 Glossary 22

DEFINING OPERA Throughout Histor y Opera has been called the greatest of all art forms. Why? Operas like Giacomo Puccini's La bohème bring all the arts together to tell stories in incredibly moving ways—stories that have been a reflection of the time and of the people throughout history. The oldest opera still performed today is Claudio Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, written in 1607. During the Baroque period from 1600-1750, Italian aristocracy wanted to recreate the great classical dramas from ancient Greece and Rome. Such stories provided the ruling elite with a strong connection to the supernatural. When asked to write an opera for Grand Duke Vincenzo Gonzaga of Mantua, Monteverdi thought that Orpheus, the Greek hero of music, would be of great interest to his audience. Monteverdi's opera brought to life Orpheus’s dramatic journey to the underworld in an effort to save his love, Euridice. The premiere of L'Orfeo was a great success, and Monteverdi emerged as someone who could use music to propel not only a narrative but also deeply affect an audience. While Monteverdi got his start composing opera for the ruling elite, he also helped bring opera to the public. Opera’s emotional stories created a frenzy in Venice, Italy, towards the middle of the 17th century. No fewer than nine public opera houses opened during this period as the public wanted more opera that reflected the culture of the time. Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppea (1642) is a great example of this desire. Poppea tells the story of one of Rome’s most evil rulers, Emperor Nero, and his love affair with Poppea, his ambitious mistress. Monteverdi’s opera premiered in Venice, and Poppea’s sensational and bawdy story perfectly matched Venetian interests while creating a gripping and emotional drama.


Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro shocked 18th century audiences when the servants Figaro and Susanna (pictured above) turn the tables on the aristocracy. Photo: Kelly & Massa Photography

The 18th century, known as the Age of Enlightenment, was the next great period of political and cultural change in Europe. People were talking about new forms of government and organization in society, especially the developing middle class. As society changed, so did opera. Composers felt the need to reform opera and move away from the complexity of the Baroque style and wanted to instead write music that was simpler and more focused on pure, raw emotion. Christoph Willibald Gluck was one of the first to achieve this with his opera Orfeo and Euridice (1762). Gluck’s music had a freedom that evoked the unaffected expression of human feelings. While Gluck's opera told the same story as Monteverdi's L’Orfeo, his music brought new life to the narrative that better reflected audiences’ tastes at the time. The later part of the 18th century marked a period of great revolt. In 1776, the American Revolution changed the world. A few years later, the French had their own revolution (1789)

The Marriage of Figaro

The Barber of Seville



Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Gioachino Rossini

and the first modern democracies were born. Reflecting this new way of thinking, audiences wanted to see characters like themselves on stage. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro (1786) did just that. It told a story about aristocratic class struggle that had both servants and nobility in leading roles. With the characters of Figaro and Susanna, Mozart gave opera relatable human beings. Mozart’s operas embody the tenets of the Enlightenment such as equality, freedom, and the importance of the lower classes. In the 1800s, Italian opera developed further with the bel canto movement, which means “beautiful singing.” Opera continued to be about real stories and achieving honesty in expression. The most famous bel canto composers were Gioachino Rossini (1792–1868), Gaetano Donizetti (1797–1848), and Vincenzo Bellini (1801–1835). The success of these composers can be measured in their ability to withstand the test of time. Rossini’s popular comedies, The Barber of Seville (1816) and Cinderella (1817), are still some of the most popular operas performed today. By the middle of the 19th century, the Romantic Movement led many composers to champion their own national identities. Composers and librettists created operas for the audiences they knew best. Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi continued to develop the bel canto style of his predecessors and became a national hero by using nationalism in his operas like Nabucco (1842) to promote the cause of Italian unification. German operas like Carl Maria von Weber’s Der Freischütz (1821), Russian operas like Mikhail Glinka's A Life for the Tsar (1836), and French operas like Giacomo Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots (1836) were performed frequently in their native countries. In Germany, Richard Wagner brought the Romantic period to its peak by exploiting the grand potential of opera. How could all of the elements - orchestra, set, chorus, soloists, and more - be elevated to transform a story and

deeply affect an audience? In The Ring of the Nibelung (1876), a series of four operas taking more than 15 hours to perform, Wagner created one of opera’s greatest masterpieces. Opera in the 20th century emerged as a period of great experimentation. Composers like Giacomo Puccini (La bohème, 1896), Richard Strauss (Salome, 1905) and Benjamin Britten (Peter Grimes, 1945) continued to evolve their national styles. Others, horrified by the destruction of World War I (1914-1918) and other aspects of modern life, created music that was new and drastically inharmonious. Meanwhile, American opera had a huge hit with George and Ira Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess (1935) which included the musical styles of jazz and blues.

Five Philadelphia youth are portrayed in Daniel Bernard Roumain's 2017 opera We Shall Not Be Moved. Photo: Dave DiRentis

Today, opera continues to grow and expand. Opera Philadelphia helps to shape the future of opera by producing important new works like Daniel Bernard Roumain and Marc Bamuthi Joseph's 2017 opera, We Shall Not Be Moved, a story about Philadelphia youth and many of the issues facing society today. In October 2017, the opera went on to be performed at the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem. In September of 2018, it also took to the big screen for Opera Philadelphia's biggest yearly civic event, Opera on the Mall, and was broadcast across Independence Mall.

Porgy and Bess

We Shall Not Be Moved



George and Ira Gershwin

Daniel Bernard Roumain


P H I L A D E L P H I A’S AC A D E M Y O F M U S I C A place for you

Photo: George Widman

Opera Philadelphia's home, the Academy of Music, opened in 1857. Opera is only one type of performance that takes place in the Academy. There are also ballets, concerts, and galas. The building is a historical monument and the oldest grand opera house in America still used for its original purpose. The Academy of Music is sometimes called the "The Grand Old Lady of Locust Street." The opera house was initially built with a plain white exterior because the architects wanted the beauty to be on the interior, as it was at the famous opera house, La Scala, in Italy. Later, the exterior was revised to look as it does today. Unlike other performance houses, the Academy of Music's seating has a 'U' shape. This was for the audience to have the best view from every angle possible. The first opera presented in the brand new opera house was Giuseppe Verdi’s Il trovatore on February 25, 1857. The basement of the Academy of Music has a history, too. It was used as a dining hall because of its beautiful interior decoration. During World War II the hall was transformed into the Stage Door Canteen, serving refreshments and featuring appearances by entertainers performing 4

at the Academy of Music, such as Abbott and Costello, Duke Ellington, and Frank Sinatra. Today, the Academy of Music continues to entertain people through concerts, operas, ballets, and more. The wondrous hall dedicated to the arts has blossomed into the perfect place for a performance of any kind. Academy of Music Facts: The auditorium seats 2,509 14 columns support the Academy’s tiers. The red and gold pattern on the Academy’s stage curtain simulates a pineapple, a Victorian-era symbol for “welcome.” • The first-ever indoor football game was held on the Academy’s Parquet level on March 7, 1889, between the University of Pennsylvania and Riverton Club of Princeton. • 1,600 people attended the first-ever public motion picture screening on February 5, 1870. • • •

OPERA Etiquette AT T E N DI NG T H E OPE R A There’s nothing as exciting as seeing a performance in Philadelphia’s beautiful Academy of Music. If this is your first time at the opera, there are a few things for which you should prepare: You are attending the opera’s final dress rehearsal, the last chance for performers to run through the show before opening night. The goal is to treat this rehearsal exactly like a performance and perform the opera straight through without a pause. You may notice several computer monitors and large tables spread out over the seats in the center of the first f loor of the auditorium. Seated in this area is the production team: Director, Assistant Director, Costume Designer, Lighting Designer, Set Designer, and others. They’ll take notes and communicate via headsets with the many people backstage who help make all of the operatic magic happen: Stage Managers, Master Carpenter, Lighting Technicians, Stagehands, and others. They’ll be able to give notes so that changes can be instantly made. Should things go wrong, they may stop and repeat a section to make sure that it is perfect. OPER A E T IQU E T T E 101 Opera singers are unique because they are trained to sing without microphones. As a result, it is important to remain quiet, listen carefully, and not interfere with the music. With this in mind, remember that at the heart of opera is a story rooted in deep emotion. So, when the time is right, don't be afraid to laugh or extend your appreciation through applause! Performers need to know how their work is being appreciated. In addition to showing respect to the people around you, it is important to appreciate the physical theater. Many opera houses or theaters are designated as historic monuments. So that we can continue to use these cherished spaces, we

Students from the Penn Alexander School prepare to see the f inal dress rehearsal of Mozart's The Magic Flute. Photo: Kelly & Massa Photography

must remember to leave them the way they were found. This means keeping your feet on the f loor as opposed to on the back of the seat in front of you. In addition, any food or beverage must remain outside of the theater. Finally, you may be asking yourself what to wear to an opera. This answer can vary from person to person. Ultimately, you should not feel as if you will be turned away because of your attire. However, dressing up for the opera is a classic tradition, so don't hesitate to show off your best new tie or your favorite dress. The way you dress and carry yourself can only add to the opera experience. Please Do... • Applaud after the arias; you can shout “Bravo!” for men and “Brava!” for the women. • Use the bathrooms before the rehearsal begins or at intermission. • Be careful in the auditorium! Theaters can sometimes be old and difficult to navigate. • Turn off your cell phones and all electronic devices. • Obey all directions given by theater ushers and staff. Please Don't... • No food, gum, or beverages are permitted inside the theater. • No photographs or videos may be taken during the performance. • No talking or whispering during the performance. 5

O P E R AT I C Vo i c e Ty p e s Have you ever wondered why every person's voice sounds slightly different? The human voice is a fascinating and complex instrument with many factors that make each one of us sound unique. The length, strength, and thickness of the vocal chords, the shape of the nasal passages, mouth, and throat all help to determine whether a voice will be high or low, bright or warm. In opera, voices are classified into seven main categories (from highest to lowest): soprano, mezzosoprano, contralto, countertenor, tenor, baritone, and bass. It is important to know that a person can only know their true voice type when they become an adult. The following people have distinguished themselves as past and present leaders of their voice type. Choose one opera singer to research and share your discoveries with your friends. Use the QR Codes and social media tags to hear each voice type and learn more about a few of these artists.

S O P R A N O is the highest female voice type, with a traditional range of A below middle C to the C two octaves above that. The soprano usually plays the heroine of the story and is often the center of the romantic storyline.

Brenda Rae soprano

Ying Fang soprano

M E Z Z O - S O P R A N O is slightly lower than soprano, with a range usually G below middle C to the Bb two octaves above. Mezzos are often supporting roles, playing motherly types or villains. They also often sing "trouser roles" in which they portray boys or young men.

Daniela Mack mezzo-soprano

C O N T R A L T O is the lowest female voice, with a range of the F below middle C to the second G above middle C. It is a rare voice type, so the roles can often be sung by mezzo-sopranos. It is the darkest in timbre and is reserved for specialty roles, such as grandmothers, noble witches, and goddesses. 6


Marietta Simpson mezzo-soprano

Marian Anderson contralto

Meredith Arwady contralto

Tim Mead countertenor

John Holiday countertenor

C O U N T E R T E N O R is the highest male voice, with a range that is similar to the contralto: a below middle C to the F an octave and a half above middle C. Frequently these men achieve their high range through bridging their chest voice with their head voice (falsetto). While this voice type was less popular from 1800-1940, composers today utilize countertenors more often.


T E N O R is considered the highest “natural” male voice, with a range of D below middle C to the C above middle C. Beginning in the Classical era (1775-1825), the tenor has been assigned the role of the hero or the love interest of the story.

Lawrence Brownlee tenor


Troy Cook baritone

Will Liverman baritone

Michael Spyres tenor

B A R I T O N E is the most common male voice type, with a range midway between tenor and bass, from A an octave below middle C to the G above middle C. The baritone is often the comical leader, but can also be the villain who stands in the way of the soprano and tenor’s love.


B A S S is the lowest and darkest of the male voices, with a range of E almost two octaves below middle C to the F above middle C. Basses can portray characters who convey wisdom or nobility, but also comedic characters. @mdrbass

Christian Van Horn bass

Photo Credit: Brenda Rae - Kristin Hoebermann, Ying Fang; Daniela Mack - Simon Pauly; Marietta Simpson - JR Simpson Photography; John Holiday - Fay Fox; Lawrence Brownlee - Ken Howard; Troy Cook - Arielle Doneson; Will Liverman - Larrynx Photography; Christian Van Horn, Morris Robinson - Ron Cadiz

Morris Robinson bass



main sections of a play or opera a solo song sung in an opera dance set to music action on stage usic composed for a group of singers; the name of a group of m singers in an opera person who rehearses and leads the orchestra a song performed by two singers a specialist in drama, especially one who acts as a consultant to a theater company, advising them on possible repertory the text or words in an opera; an opera’s script a group of musicians who play together on various musical instruments a piece of instrumental music played at the beginning that sets the mood for the opera words that are sung in the rhythm of natural speech a sequence of continuous actions

Lawrence Brownlee, tenor, performs the title role in Charlie Parker's YARDBIRD. After its 2015 World Premiere with Opera Philadelphia, the opera traveled to Harlem and graced the stage of the historic Apollo Theater. It has since been performed at Madison Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Hackney Empire in London. Photo: Sof ia Negron


THE MAN BEHIND THE MUSIC: Giacomo Puccini W H A T W A S P U C C I N I ’S CHILDHOOD LIKE? Giacomo Puccini was born on December 22, 1858. His father died when he was six years old. His family was poor and he had seven siblings. He joined the seminary to get an education and be free from poverty.

HOW DID PUCCINI BECOME A COMPOSER? In 1876, Puccini and his brother walked 18 miles to see a performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Aïda in Pisa, Italy. He was so moved by the performance, he knew that opera was his destiny. He wanted to study in the conservatory in Milan, but couldn’t afford the tuition. Puccini’s mother wrote a letter to Queen Margherita of Italy (1851-1926) to get a scholarship for her son.

HOW DID PUCCINI BEGIN C O M P O S I N G O P E R A? In 1882, when Puccini was 24, he submitted his first opera, Le Villi (The Fairies), into a competition. He didn’t win, but opera producers noticed his talent. One critic called Puccini “the composer Italy had waited for.” WHEN DID PUCCINI BECOME A SUCCESSFUL OPER A COMPOSER? The first opera that put Puccini on the map was Manon Lescaut (1892). This opera about a young woman who doesn't know whether to live for love or money, thrilled audiences across Italy and Europe with its beautiful melodies and tragic ending. Manon Lescaut was followed by three operas that were so popular they gave Puccini international fame and tremendous wealth: La bohème (1896), Tosca (1900), and Madame Butterfly (1904).

W H AT D I D P U C C I N I D O F O R F U N ? Puccini liked to relax by Lake Massaciuccoli at Torre del Lago and indulged in his passions of hunting, technology (he often spoke to Thomas Edison), and fast cars.

Composer Giacomo Puccini sits at his piano Photo Credit: Unknown

W H AT I S T H E H I S TO RY B E H I N D L A BOHÈME? Puccini's La bohème is one of the most popular operas ever written. In fact, the opera will be performed well over 500 times around the world this year alone! Its success was instant after its premiere in Turin, Italy on February 1, 1896. It was first heard in the United States in Los Angeles on October 14, 1897. Despite, or maybe because of, the opera's success, the story behind the creation of the opera shows how friends can become enemies. On March 19, 1893, Italian composer Ruggero Leoncavallo met with Puccini. Leoncavallo had made his international mark with his opera, Pagliacci. He asked Puccini what he was going to do after the success of his opera Manon Lescaut. Puccini shared that he was going to compose an opera based on Henri Murger's book Scenes from the Bohemian Life. Leoncavallo became very upset because he had previously offered Puccini a libretto based on that same text and it was rejected. Leoncavallo then began to compose his own opera based on the same novel. Puccini and Leoncavallo were then in direct competition with each other. When news of this broke, Puccini said to the press, "Let him compose, and I will compose, and the public will be the judge!" In the end, Puccini won over the public with his masterpiece. 9

PUCCINI'S Early Poverty and Political Belie fs Puccini's family was very poor due to his father's death at the age of 51, when Giacomo was five. He was the oldest son. His mother was left to support two sons and six daughters. She believed that a good education could free her children from their poverty. The following letter was written by Puccini's mother to the Queen of Italy in an attempt to acquire a scholarship for her son.

Majesty, You are the Queen and the mother of all the poor, and you are also the patroness of artists, while I am a poor widow with two young sons, whose ambition in life is to give them the best education. My children are students of music, and the older of them, Giacomo, shows great promise. For f ive generations, the Puccini's have formed a dynasty of musicians, and if the opportunity should arise, Giacomo will continue the glorious tradition. He has terminated his studies at Lucca; he desires to proceed to Milan, the capital of music. I cannot myself pay his expenses at the Conservatory, for I have only a meager monthly pension of 75 lire allowed me by the City Council. The Duchess Carafa, who knows me well, has encouraged me to write to Your Majesty. Will you therefore in your immense generosity come to the help of a poor mother and an ambitious boy. Kissing your munif icent hand, I am Albina Magi-Puccini Even after Puccini received a scholarship, he remained poor. He often wrote to his mother about food, requesting a little olive oil or some beans. He found that the other students were from wealthier families and he could not join them at the cafés of Milan because they were too expensive. 10

While he was a student at the conservatory, he wrote Capriccio sinfonico. This piece was part of his graduation requirements. After he graduated with a bronze medal, he struggled for 10 years before he became recognized as a major talent in the field of opera. During this time, he would send his younger brother Michele what money he had left. Soon, Puccini's brother decided to immigrate to Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1889 in search of a better life. It was there that he became ill with yellow fever in 1891 and died. The loss of his brother pained Giacomo deeply. If he had been successful a little earlier, he thought, his brother might still be alive. Puccini's family was not the only one suffering. Italy was one of the poorest nations of Europe at the time of Puccini's life. Italy had been one of the last nations to be reunited as a nation state. This was because the other powerful nations of Europe and the Vatican controlled large sections of the country. As a result of the political instability and frequent wars that moved through the region, Italy's economy was largely underdeveloped. Italy's economy was weak because investors make capital investments in nations that have stable governments. Countries that have frequent uprisings or political instability place the investments of industry at greater risk. Who would want to invest money in an area where the new factory could be burned down in the next riot? As a result, Italy was not able to begin to attract the foreign investors needed to build its economy. Some scholars feel that the loss of his young brother, as a result of poverty, was the passionate power behind the music in his opera, La bohème. In this opera, the main character, Mimì, also dies an early death as a result of extreme poverty. As Puccini grew more successful, he continued to be aware of the suffering of those he considered to have "great sorrows in little souls."

W H AT I N T H E W O R L D ? E v e n t s d u r i n g P u c c i n i ’s L i f e Listed below are some historic and cultural events that took place during Giacomo Puccini's lifetime. Events in boldface type are things that happened to Puccini; an asterisk (*) indicates events of local interest. 1857

*Philadelphia’s Academy of Music opened with a concert conducted by Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky.


Giacomo Puccini was born on December 22 in Lucca, Italy, to Michele Puccini and Albina Magi.

18 61

The American Civil War began when the Confederates bombarded the Union at Fort Sumter.


Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth while attending a performance at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C.


* The first section of the famous boardwalk in Atlantic City, N.J., opened to the public.

1 8 74

*The first zoo in the United States opened in Philadelphia.


Puccini attended the opera Aïda and was inspired to become a composer.


*The first department store was opened in Philadelphia by John Wanamaker.

188 0

While at the Conservatory of Lucca, Puccini composed a Mass for soloists and orchestra. He enrolled at the Conservatory in Milan.


he first string of Christmas tree lights was created by Thomas Edison. T *The Philadelphia Phillies, then called the Quakers, played their first baseball game.

188 4

uccini’s first opera, Le Villi, premiered on May 31 in Milan. He began a long professional P relationship with his publisher Giulio Ricordi. His mother died. He began a long love affair with Elvira, his friend's pharmacist.


George Ferris introduced his Ferris Wheel at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.


*Milton Hershey founded Hershey Foods in Pennsylvania.

19 8 6

La bohème premiered in February at the Teatro Regio in Turin, Italy.


The game of basketball was invented by Dr. James Naismith at a YMCA in Springfield, MA.

19 01

*The first annual Mummers Parade was held in Philadelphia.

191 2

The British ocean liner Titanic sank after hitting an iceberg.


*Construction began on the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

19 2 0

The United States Congress passed the 18th Amendment, prohibiting alcoholic beverages, and the 19th amendment which granted suffrage to American women.

19 21

Puccini began work on Turandot at Viareggio.

19 2 4

After treatment for throat cancer, Puccini died of a heart attack on November 29. Two months after his death, Puccini was given the honorary title of senator. His remains were moved to Torre del Lago and re-interred in the village chapel.


IMPRESSIONISM A Time for Change in Art Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) lived during a time of immense artistic growth and change in Europe. One of the major movements in art during Puccini's life was Impressionism. It developed in the second half of the 19th century. Today, we consider many of the artists who lived during this period to be among the greatest in history. Impressionist paintings are defined by their small, visible brush-strokes, vivid colors, everyday subject matter, and use of light. Artists concentrated on impressions light had on the subjects they were painting rather than the actual light itself. Impressionism as a movement got its name from the art critic Louis Leroy. After he viewed Claude Monet's painting Impression Sunrise (1872), he labeled Monet as an "Impressionist." Leroy meant the term negatively because he did not like the way Monet's painting lacked the realistic qualities that were popular in France at the time. However, once seen by the public, the style of art grew in popularity. Today we continue to celebrate Impressionist artists such as Édouard Manet, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas, Berthe Morisot, and more. Mary Cassatt and Henry Ossawa Tanner are two celebrated Impressionist painters with ties to Philadelphia. MARY CASSATT Mary Cassatt was born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia from 1861-1865. After finishing at the Academy, she left Philadelphia to take part in the growing artistic fervor in Europe. While in Paris, she became a good friend of Edgar Degas, who introduced her to Impressionism. Cassatt became quite well known among other artists as her work was put on display throughout Europe and the United States. Today, her work is featured in many American museums. 12

The Thankful Poor, Henry Ossawa Tanner

HENRY OSSAWA TANNER The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts was also the training ground for locally-born artist Henry Ossawa Tanner. Tanner was an AfricanAmerican artist who was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1859. Henri's father was a respected leader of social justice. In fact, Henry is named after the town of Osawatomie, Kansas, where the abolitionist John Brown began his work against slavery. Tanner and his family moved to Philadelphia when he was just seven years old and remained for 25 years. Like Cassatt, Tanner was drawn to life in Europe for its exciting artistic environment. Tanner also wanted to move to Europe so that he could move away from the racism he experienced in the United States. He believed that in Europe he could be free from intense racial hatred. He found peace there, and it became home for most of his remaining life. Tanner's paintings are celebrated not only for their skill and precision, but also for their subject matter. His work often focused on African-American life and subjects in a time when hatred and prejudice were openly practiced. His The Banjo Lesson and The Thankful Poor (pictured above) are examples of this. Tanner persevered through adversity and, in the end, became famous and celebrated amongst his peers-an honor for any artist.

Davide Livermore's production of La bohème features Van Gogh's Sunflowers. Photo Credit: Kelly & Massa Photography

CELEBRATING IMPRESSIONISM IN LA BOHÈME Opera Philadelphia is pleased to present Davide Livermore's production of La bohème where he serves not only as the original director but also the scenic and costume designer. This production is unique in the way it features paintings from the Impressionist era. These paintings help to transport the audience to Puccini's time and work to set the mood for each scene. If you look back through the libretto, you may recognize several paintings. Many of these same paintings now live right here in Philadelphia at either The Barnes Foundation or the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA). For example, Vincent Van Gogh's Sunflowers serves as the backdrop for the romantic scene when Mimì and Rodolfo first meet. This warm and inviting painting can be still be viewed at the PMA.

Sunflowers by Vincent van Gogh

While Impressionist paintings play a role in the scenic design of the opera, they influence costume design as well. For example, one of Mimì's costumes is designed to resemble Pierre-Auguste Renoir's painting Girl in Grey-Blue. She also wears a bonnet that is inspired by Renoir's Girl with Pink Bonnet (pictured right). To hear from Davide Livermore about his inspiration for La bohème, visit You can also see a complete list of Impressionist paintings in this production at

Girl with Pink Bonnet by Renoir


LA BOHÈME C a s t a n d C r e a t i v e Te a m Final Dress Rehearsal – Wednesday, April 24, 2019, 2:00 p.m. at the Academy of Music. Music by Giacomo Puccini. Libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. Performed in Italian with English supertitles. Production of the Palau de les Arts "Reina Sofia."

a seamstress Vanessa Vasquez* soprano

a poet Evan LeRoy Johnson tenor


a singer Ashley Marie Robillard soprano M USE T TA ,


a painter Troy Cook baritone


a musician Will Liverman baritone


a philosopher Peixin Chen bass



Kevin Burdette bass

CO N D U C T O R Corrado Rovaris O R I G I N A L D I R E C T I O N

Davide Livermore


Alessandra Premoli*


Gregory Boyle

S E T & CO S T U M E D E S I G N

Davide Livermore


Drew Billiau

AU D I OV I S UA L D-Wok 14

CHORUS MASTER Elizabeth Braden

*Opera Philadelphia debut

LA BOHÈME Synopsis ACT I In a Latin Quarter garret on Christmas Eve, Rodolfo, a poet, and Marcello, a painter, burn pages from Rodolfo’s latest manuscript to stay warm. Soon they are joined by Colline, a philosopher, and Schaunard, a musician, who brings food and money earned from his recent brief employment. Their landlord, Benoit, knocks on the door asking for the overdue rent. They invite him in for a drink and, made garrulous by the wine, Benoit boasts of his many conquests. The four friends feign indignation over the exploits of a married man and throw him out. Marcello, Colline, and Schaunard leave for Café Momus, while Rodolfo stays behind to finish writing, promising to join them shortly. There is a knock at the door and Rodolfo opens it to the young seamstress Mimì, who asks for a light for her candle. Seeing that she is weak, Rodolfo ushers her to a chair and offers her wine. As she is leaving, Mimì tells Rodolfo she has lost her key and they search for it together. He tells her about himself and his dreams and Mimì replies with the story of her own modest life as a seamstress. The two realize their love for one another and leave to join his friends.

ACT II Rodolfo introduces Mimì to his friends at the Café Momus and they all sit down to dinner. Marcello’s former girlfriend, Musetta, appears with the wealthy and older Alcindoro. Despite Musetta’s and Marcello’s attempt to appear indifferent to each other’s presence, it is plain that they are not. In order to gain his attention, Musetta sings a song boasting about her popularity. Complaining that her shoe is hurting her, she sends Alcindoro off to the cobbler’s. She then is free to join her old friends, leaving Alcindoro to pay everyone’s bill when he returns.

ACT III Several weeks later, the ailing Mimì seeks out Marcello at the tavern where he is now employed as a mural painter. She tells him that she is afraid Rodolfo’s jealousy will drive them apart. As she starts to leave, Rodolfo comes out of the tavern and Mimì quickly hides. After some prodding from Marcello, Rodolfo admits that his jealous fits hide his real feelings of despair over Mimì’s increasingly serious illness. A coughing fit reveals Mimì’s presence just as Marcello, hearing Musetta’s raucous laughter, rushes back into the tavern to investigate. Mimì tells Rodolfo that they should separate and the lovers exchange memories of their happiness. Marcello and Musetta come out of the tavern in the midst of a heated argument. The two exchange insults and part angrily, while Rodolfo and Mimì agree to stay together until spring.

ACT IV Several months later back in their garret, Rodolfo and Marcello commiserate over their loneliness. Colline and Schaunard enter, breaking the mood and offering a small meal. They are interrupted when Musetta arrives with the news that Mimì is outside, very ill, and has asked to be brought to Rodolfo. While Rodolfo helps Mimì lie down, Musetta gives her earrings to Marcello, telling him to go buy medicine and send for a doctor. She runs out to buy a muff for Mimì’s cold hands and Colline leaves to sell his coat to get more money. Left alone, Rodolfo and Mimì reminisce about their first meeting and the love that they shared. Soon the others return, bearing medicine and a muff to warm Mimì’s hands. As Mimì succumbs to her illness, it is obvious to everyone but Rodolfo that the help has come too late. He is the last to realize that Mimì has died and he falls on her lifeless body calling her name. 15

A BOHEMIAN NAMED Mimì La bohème is based on Henri Murger's novel, Scenes from the Bohemian Life. The novel was set on the Left Bank of Paris, a section of the city where many students lived. It was known for cheap housing for the university intellectuals. As a result, this area also attracted many artists who were seeking inexpensive housing and young girls who had run away from their homes in the countryside. One of these young girls was our Mimì. She was based on an actual person, Lucille Louvet, who made silk flowers. She died on March 6, 1848, at the very young age of 22, from tuberculosis. This explains why Mimì in her first act aria sings: "They call me Mimì, but my real name is Lucia. " Why would a young girl run away from her home? At the time of Mimì, nearly all women were considered the property of their fathers until they were married, and at that point they became the property of their husbands. Young ladies could not choose who they would marry; this decision was up to their fathers. If a young girl was unhappy about whom she was being forced to marry, or a victim of abuse at home, she would often run away to Paris where she would end up living in the Left Bank of Paris with the other young people. This was a time of great social inequality; women were usually not allowed to attend schools. The country girls who ran away to Paris were very poor. Alone and only domestically skilled, they made their clothes from cheap gray cloth. This earned them the name grisette, referring to the cheap material. It became a badge or symbol of the status.


Life for women in the Left Bank was not easy. Many women were forced to share rooms in small apartments. Overcrowding enabled disease to spread quickly and easily from one person to another. Jobs were few for uneducated women from the countryside. To support themselves, women would try to find work as either maids or seamstresses, and in many cases they would use their personal beauty to entice men to support them in exchange for sexual favors. If they chose the latter, they became known as courtesans. In

many cases, women shifted from one path to another as they struggled to survive. In our opera, Mimì begins as a grisette living alone and trying to make a living as an artificial flower maker. She meets Rodolfo, the young Bohemian artist, and the two fall in love. In truth, the historic Mimì was not as sweet as our theatrical character. The librettists altered her personality to match the era's concept of the ideal woman in need: a fragile woman for which the audience could express sympathy. This also reflected the inability of society to address the root causes of the suffering of women--the inherent sexism within a society that treated women as property. The real Mimì was drawn to Rodolfo but was strong willed and independent. The concept of a strong woman in need would have forced social issues that could have undercut the dramatic thrust of the two lovers struggling against a health crisis made worse through their poverty. Within the opera's plot, Rodolfo realizes Mimì is very ill with tuberculosis. The impoverished lovers decide it is best for them to part so that Mimì can trade on her beauty and find a wealthy man who can afford to get her the medical treatment she needs. Although Mimì does not want to leave Rodolfo, she knows that becoming a courtesan might be her only chance to survive. At the end of the third act, they decide to stay together until the coming of spring. Choosing to live the life of a courtesan was very dangerous. However, as with Mimì, many of the women of the Left Bank were already dying of diseases, so the choice to become a courtesan was most often a survival tactic. Marriage was not an option because the women who had run away from the traditional lifestyle were considered outcasts. A man who married a courtesan found that his social invitations were limited. Women of proper society did not accept the courtesans but noted their freedom. Thus courtesans challenged the social structure to its core.

CHARACTER ANALYSIS Pyramid After reading the libretto of La bohème, choose one character and complete the following pyramid with information you know about him or her. Go back into the libretto to complete sections you don't know. Consider working individually or in a group. When you are done, share with your classmates.







COLOR YOUR OWN Va n G o g h S u n f l o w e r s

for a classroom lessons about Vincent van Gogh visit:


WRITING A REVIEW of the Opera A review is an opinionated piece of writing. It is an opportunity for someone to communicate their likes and dislikes about a particular event. A good theater review takes into consideration all of the things that happened on stage. Before writing a review, it is good to organize your thoughts. Use the following template to create a review of La bohème. JOIN OUR BLOG! - When you finish writing your review, consider submitting it online! Opera Philadelphia would love to hear your thoughts about the production. Just remember to include your first name, school, and grade. Visit: PL O T & CH A R AC T ER S Did the performance tell the story dramatically, and were you engaged in the plot? Summarize the main characters and conflict briefly in this opening paragraph.

M USIC & VOICES Did the music carry the characters and action forward? Were there particular voices, arias, or duets that added to your involvement in the conflict?

S TAGI NG How did the sets, costumes, and staging enhance or undermine the plot?

SET TING Make note of the time and location where the opera takes place. Is it the same setting the composer imagined, or has it been updated? If it has been updated, does the change add to the power of the piece, or is it a distraction?

Y O U R O P I N I O N (After the performance) Would you recommend this performance to your friends or family? Explain why or why not.


M E E T T H E A R T I STS backstage Putting on an opera is a team effort that requires more than just the performers you see on stage. It is often the case that for every one person you see on stage there are three or four other people working behind the scenes. Opera is full of exciting technical careers including carpentry, costumes, electrics, rigging, props, ushers, wigs, make-up, and more. Here's a glimpse into the life and work of two people who will be working backstage in our production of La bohème. To learn more about the many backstage careers in opera, visit: G R E G B OY L E A S S I S TA N T S TAG E D I R E C TO R

FA S T FAC T S Hometown: Westfield, NJ, was born in the town of Santiago, Chile Hobbies: Traveling, visiting museums or art galleries, hiking, baking, watching Star Wars Favorite Meal: Cajun grilled shrimp in a creamy lemon sauce pasta and a dark chocolate merlot cookie for dessert Describe your role for La bohème. The primary job is exactly as it sounds, to assist the director. This can take on a lot of meanings such as taking notes for the director while singers are rehearsing a particular scene in the opera. An AD can also give notes and help fix or adjust a large chorus in crowd scenes while the director works one-on-one with a principal singer. As an AD, I’m also in communication with the production staff to make sure everyone is on the same page. We all work as a team and share as much information as possible to make the opera run as smoothly as possible. Once the opera is finally open, I help maintain the production and give notes for changes or corrections whenever necessary. What is your favorite part about your work?


The traveling is amazing! At my age, I have already traveled to 43 of the 50 states. I have seen so much of this country and its people and have a greater understanding of how we all fit. I have experienced so many different cultures, foods, art, and music and yet every time I travel, there is so much more to learn. I’m always excited to see where my journey will take me next!

What educational or vocational path led you to where you are now? What obstacles did you face? I was a Voice Education Major with a concentration in Opera Studies for my undergraduate degree. Immediately after college, I studied in a professional development program at The Julliard School in NYC. Since then, I’ve been extremely lucky to build strong relationships with colleagues and my career has just taken off. I’ve certainly had support from family and friends but I’ve also had people tell me things like “you’re too young” or “we aren’t sure you have enough experience”. But I definitely didn’t let that stop me, if anything, I worked harder because I was frequently the youngest in the room, or I went out and got more experience to prove that I could. I took on a lot of different jobs; intern to crew member, to crew chief, to stage manager, and now assistant director. All those tough and different jobs paid off and gave me the wisdom and experience I needed to be the director I am today. What advice do you have for people who are interested in a career backstage? Always walk into the room with a smile. There are going to be many, many long days in a job in theater and everyone is exhausted at some point; but you have to start the day right. People will appreciate you, respect you, and work harder if you set the tone from the start. Be the positivity in the room you want to see, don’t simply wait for things to get better.

High school students from across Philadelphia participate in Opera Philadelphia's f irst Career Day at the Academy of Music. Students had the opportunity to learn about backstage careers in opera including costumes, sets, props, and more. Photo: Dave DiRentis


FA S T FAC T S Hometown: Recently moved to Philadelphia from San Francisco, California Hobbies: Knitting, scuba diving, cooking, eating, hanging out with husband and dog (and cat) Favorite Food: Buttered toast Describe your role at Opera Philadelphia. I stage manage all of the shows as well as help advance future shows and all that entails (meetings, schedules, paperwork, etc.). What educational or vocational path led you to where you are now? What obstacles did you face? I had a Broadway Stage Manager as a teacher in high school and loved doing it. The biggest obstacle was convincing my family it was a viable career choice. What is your favorite part about your work? Getting to be in the room where it happens. It is so great to watch and help and be part of all of the amazing talent that is in a rehearsal process.

What advice do you have for people who are interested in your f ield of work? Learn everything. Languages, music, art history, lighting design, fashion, business, singing. It is all part of it. Do you have any funny or scary stories from your time with the opera? Not at this company... But productions of AĂŻda are usually good for stories because often they want exotic animals for the parade. In one company they had--in addition to the usual camels and elephants--large birds of prey that flew out over the audience. All went well until opening night when the birds were attracted to shiny things on the patrons in the audience and they started swooping down much to the consternation of the people wearing them! The birds were cut for the next performance. In another company, the camels got antsy and started kicking while lined up backstage. Since it was so tight backstage, they kicked through the flats behind them. Unfortunately, that was the scenery for the last scene. As Aida and Radames were supposedly suffocating in the tomb, there were holes the size of two large camels behind them! 21

GLOSSARY A R D E N T - ( A H R - d n t ) A D J . expressing or characterized by warmth of passion or desire. B R A Z I E R - ( B R E Y - z h e r ) N . a metal pan for holding burning coals or charcoal. B R E V I T Y - ( B R E H V - i h - t e e ) N . briefness of duration. C H A S T E - ( c h a y s t ) A D J . morally pure; decent; modest. C O N C E P T I O N - ( k u h n - S E P - s h u h n ) N . that which is mentally conceived; a concept, plan. C O N C O C T I O N - ( k u h n - K O K - s h u h n ) N . something which is invented or devised. C O Q U E T T E - ( K O H - k e t ) N . a woman who flirts. D A W D L E - ( D A W D - l ) V. to waste time, trifling or loitering, linger. D E C O R U M - ( d i h - K A W R - u h m ) N . appropriateness of behavior or conduct. E C C E N T R I C - ( e k - S E N - t r i k ) A D J . unconventional in appearance or behavior. F E I G N - ( f e y n ) V. to represent falsely; pretend to. F I C K L E - ( F I K - u h l ) A D J . changeable, especially with regard to affections or attachments; inconstant. F O P P I S H - ( F O P - i s h ) A D J . pertaining to, or characteristic of a vain man; dandified. G A L L - ( g a w l ) N . something bitter to endure. G A R R E T - ( G A R - i t ) N . a room on the top floor of a house, typically immediately under a pitched

roof; an attic; a loft.

I N D I G N A T I O N - ( i n - d i g - N AY - s h u h n ) N . strong displeasure at something unjust, offensive or

insulting; righteous anger.

I N F I N I T E - ( i n - F U H - n i t ) A D J . having no boundaries or limits. M A N U S C R I P T - ( M A N - y o o - s k r i p t ) N . a typewritten or handwritten version of a book, article,

document, or other work, especially an author's own copy, prepared and submitted for publication in print.

M I N X - ( m i n g k s ) N . a pert, impudent, or flirtatious young girl. M U S E - ( m y o o z ) N . a poet's inspiring goddess, a poet's genius. P A S T I M E - ( P A S - t a h y m ) N . an activity that occupies one's time pleasantly. P O I G N A N T - ( P O I N - y u h n t ) A D J . 1. appealing to the emotions; 2. keenly distressing to the mind. P O M P O U S - ( P A H M - p u h s ) N . full of ostentatious dignity and self-importance. P R O F U N D I T Y - ( p r u h - F U H N - d i h - t e e ) N . depth of intellect, feeling, or meaning. P R O V E N D E R - ( P R O V - u h n - d r ) N . food or provisions. S C U R R I L O U S - ( S K U R - u h - l u h s ) A D J . given to the use of vulgar or low abusive language. S N A R E - ( S H E Y R ) N . 1. a trapping device used for capturing small animals.


T H R O N G - ( t h r a w n g ) N . a crowded mass of people.

OPERA PHILADELPHIA David B. Devan General Director & President

Corrado Rovaris Jack Mulroney Music Director

Michael Bolton Vice President of Community Initiatives

Sounds of Learning was established by a

generous grant from The Annenberg Foundation. Dedicated funding for the Sounds of Learning program has been provided by:

THE WILLIAM PENN FOUNDATION Hamilton Family Foundation Universal Health Services Eugene Garfield Foundation

Written and produced by: Opera Philadelphia Community Initiatives Department Š 2019 1420 Locust Street, Suite 210 Philadelphia, PA, 19102 Tel: 215.893.5925 Michael Bolton Vice President of Community Initiatives Steven Humes Education Manager

The Hirsig Family Fund of the Philadelphia Foundation

Veronica Chapman-Smith Community Initiatives Administrator

The McLean Contributionship

Katie Kelley Graphic Designer

Louis N. Cassett Foundation Victory Foundation

Special thanks to: Frank Machos Executive Officer, Office of Arts & Academic Enrichment School District of Philadelphia The Office of Strategic Partnerships School District of Philadelphia Dr. Bettie Joyner Kleckley Dr. Nanci Ritter Program Evaluators Maureen Lynch Operations Manager, Academy of Music

Opera Philadelphia is supported by major grants from The William Penn Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation, and The Pew Charitable Trusts. Additional support is provided by the Independence Foundation and the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation. Opera Philadelphia receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Support provided in part by the Philadelphia Cultural Fund.

Frank Flood Assistant Operations Manager, Academy of Music Cornell Wood Head Usher, Academy of Music Academy of Music Ushers




Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.