5 Things You May Not Know About LA Opera’s La Boheme

Since film director Herbert Ross (Steel Magnolias, The Turning Point) first envisioned LA Opera’s production of Puccini’s La Boheme in 1993, it’s been staged frequently, wowing Los Angeles audiences time and time again. Before the return of La Boheme in May, here are five things you may not know about LA Opera’s iconic production.

Herbert Ross added a subtle cinematic take to La Boheme.

Ross looked at the opera through the lens of an experienced filmmaker. For example, Acts I and IV take place in a garret, the loft space inhabited by the four bohemian men. Most productions only show the interior of the garret. Ross recognized that it would be much more dynamic to have the garret be but one piece of an entire rooftop setting. In our production, audience members not only focus on the singers, but also what’s going behind them, around them, within the environment of the set. This cinematic staging brought the beauty of Paris to life.

La Boheme (2012); Photo: Robert Millard

La Boheme (2012); Photo: Robert Millard

 The Bohemians’ garret is inspired by an actual building in Paris.

The Bohemian’s garret is inspired by the Bateau-Lavoir, a run-down building in Paris where Picasso (and other painters in the period) lived and worked during the early years of their careers.

La Boheme (2012); Photo: Robert Millard

La Boheme (2012); Photo: Robert Millard

The Eiffel Tower is still under construction.

While the opera is originally set in the 1840s, our production updates the setting to several decades later, a time period known as the Belle Époque (“beautiful era”). The Eiffel Tower was being built during this time. In our production, the Eiffel Tower is a structure set against projections of the Parisian skyscape. While its construction progresses throughout the opera, it is never fully completed, rooting La Boheme precisely in this historical period.

The production features a reproduction Peugeot built from scratch.

When the technical department was tasked with sourcing a Peugeot Type 2 (one of the earliest French motorized vehicles) for the production, they realized how difficult this would be. There were none of these Peugeots anywhere in America, not even in museums. Working from only an 11”x17” photocopied image, a team at Studio Sereno built an exact replica of the original model.

Peugeot Before and After; Photo: Studio Sereno

Peugeot Before and After; Photo: Studio Sereno

La Boheme (2012): Photo: Robert Millard

La Boheme (2012): Photo: Robert Millard

Our La Boheme has one of the quickest major set changes in LA Opera’s history.

From Act I to Act II, La Boheme’s setting changes from a rooftop and garret to a Parisian street. The show also goes from having just two people on stage (lovers Rodolfo and Mimi) to having over 100 characters on stage. While most opera companies will have a longer pause or intermission in between these two acts, our team motors through the changes in just six minutes. During these six minutes (four of which are set to music), the 1500-square-foot, 30,000-pound garret structure is rotated to reveal its opposite side – a giant building. The stunning quick change – which took half a day the first time it was rehearsed in 1993 – requires 50 crew members.

These are just a handful of the many behind-the-scenes things that make our production of La Boheme truly unique.  The rest must be seen to be believed.

For more information and to purchase tickets to La Boheme, click here. To find out more about our current and upcoming productions, check out our website.

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