Bohemians' Rhapsody

Twentysomethings emote over life, love, and death in classic opera.

Nineteenth-century Paris comes to life on Playhouse Square tonight, when Opera Cleveland stages Giacomo Puccini's La Bohème at the State. And if you haven't fallen in love or broken up with someone in a while, let the games begin. "I think it's something that each one of us has experienced in some way," says Tomer Zvulun, the show's director. "The audience member easily identifies with these young, passionate poor people — and everything they go through."First staged in Turin, Italy, in 1896, the four-act opera takes place in 1830s Paris, where four struggling artists live in squalor. There's the poet Rodolfo, who's gaga over his sickly upstairs neighbor, Mimi. At the same time, the painter Marcello renews an intense passion for Musetta, who's been kicking it with a rich old man in town.The piece's popularity speaks for itself. In more than a century, New York's Met has performed the classic work more than 1,200 times, ranking it as the most-staged production in the company's history. In 1996, it inspired the Broadway rock opera Rent, about an apartment full of impoverished bohemians living in New York's AIDS-infested Lower East Side. The opera's plot magnifies the dilemmas of young people in love and at risk of losing everything they have. "I think that the opera gives an opportunity to create both very lavish and grand scenes that include all these people. But it also allows them to concentrate on very intimate and emotionally charged scenes that people immediately identify with," says Zvulun. "There's love, breaking up, and losing love. And each one of us experiences that." La Bohème is at 8 tonight, 2 p.m. Sunday, and 8 p.m. Saturday, April 26, at the State Theatre, 1519 Euclid Avenue. Tickets are $25 to $135. Call 216-241-6000 or visit
Fri., April 18, 8 p.m.; Sun., April 20, 2 p.m.; Sat., April 26, 8 p.m., 2008