Her name is Lucia, but they call her Mimi. She doesn't know why. Neither did I. That was the over-arching theme of my first visit to the opera in Arizona.
Jean Jennings took me to The Marriage of Figaro in Detroit last year; that was my first opera since childhood. With characters rushing all over, with intricate staging, with performers who acted along with the singing, it was a charming and lighthearted musical romp.
La Boheme, Pucini's walk on the wild-side, is darker and starker. The set was minimal, the lighting dim, and our seats were very very very high up at The Music Hall. Perhaps, had we been closer to the stage, I might have seen a facial expression or two. Perhaps, had I remembered the lorgnette I bought for G'ma in the 1970's and rescued from the pod castle when she died, I would have experienced more of the emotional tugs and pulls. As it was, from up in the rafters all I could feel was the distance.
Miss Vicki says that opera should be viewed as music, singing, story, and acting.... in that order. And so....
The music was outstanding; one of the advantages of sitting up high is that you can peer right down into the orchestra pit. We were able to conduct along with the Maestro, to plunk pretend harp strings and bow our phantom violins, to watch the musicians ply their trade. I'm trying to train myself to recognize the different instruments by sound alone; the perch from above sent me well along my way.
The voices were better than mine, that's for sure, and there was no cracking on the high notes nor swallowing of the lower ones. Still, there was nothing that compared to Renee Fleming's Star Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl. The leads are lovers in real life, too, and their embraces were the most moving pieces of the performance. For the most part, though, they were static and relatively unexpressive in their body language and their voices.
I really wanted to cry. I wanted to be like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, weeping with joy, transported to a plane of delight by the magic of the spectacle, aurally and visually. I was open to the experience, willing to surrender to the moment, ready to be taken away.
Unfortunately, it never happened.
That's the thing about living outside of a major cultural mecca. You take what you can get, and appreciate it for what it is worth. There's no sense in complaining; the show did come to town, after all. I did choose to live in an operatic wasteland.
Still, I was hoping for more.