La Boheme / Austin Lyric Opera : 5 of 5

Although I would have to choose Mozart's operas if I were forced to listen to only one composer, Puccini's creations simply define what makes opera great. Everyone in the world, regardless of music preference, should experience La Boheme at least once, and if they saw a performance like Austin Lyric Opera's season opener this weekend, new opera fans would be born across the globe! La Boheme simply has it all - romance, comedy, tragedy - set to some of the most incredible, soaring melodies that completely say "this is how opera should sound". This production had a spectacular global cast, with a Russian Mimi and a French Rodolfo (all singing in Italian, of course!), as well as a massive chorus of all ages that completely filled the stage during the hilarious scene at Cafe Momus. The sets were wonderful, using brilliant forced perspective, and I especially enjoyed the huge window in the artists' apartment with its soft views of Paris outside. Rodolfo's voice was fantastic, and his chemistry with Mimi was perfect (in spite of an age difference in the actors, which completely disappeared as they became their characters), making for an especially believable and heart-wrenching final scene. I was particularly impressed with the philosopher's farewell song to his beloved coat before he sells it, which was touching and deserving of applause, though the audience was a little too wrapped up in the story at that point. Because this was opening night for the new season, ALO provided free champagne to everyone during the first intermission, which was festive and generous! I think everyone in the crowd fell in love with opera all over again, and even though I've seen La Boheme many times before, Austin Lyric Opera succeeded in making it a unique and moving experience!