To experience an ‘in the round’ opera performance is to be entirely immersed in passion, talent and beauty. Add to it the passion, inspiration and mastery that is the Salt Marsh Opera, the tradition and history of Westerly’s George Kent Performance Hall and the masterpiece that is Giacomo Puccini’s La bohème and you’ve got yourselves a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
This experience will come to life on Saturday, Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. during a one-night-only performance as the Salt Marsh Opera returns to where it all began: The George Kent Performance Hall. The hall’s design allows the performers to present La bohème as a deeply engaging operatic performance, seating audience members in the midst of the performance and giving them an immersive experience unlike any other.
Kent Hall is the perfect venue for such an experience for a number of reasons, including both its adaptable floor plan and its proximity to downtown Westerly. Kent Hall offers the Salt Marsh Opera the ability to build the opera around the audience, seating attendees literally eye to eye with the performers at tables built to fit within Café Momus itself. The performers will sing, dance and march within arm’s reach of select tables, and the audience will be encouraged to parade with them at the close of Act II. This will be less an evening at the opera, and more an evening in the opera.
Set in Paris in the mid-19th-century, La bohème is a tragic tale of love in the face of adversity. Four destitute friends define what it is to struggle with romance in the face of tragedy. In a cold Parisian apartment, a poet is so poor he burns pages of his own manuscript for heat. A chance encounter and cleverly pocketed key lead him to discover a love strong enough to warm his soul. But in impoverished Paris, even love is not free, and he is faced with a price he may not be able to pay. What cost is too high for the woman he loves, and is it worth living without her by his side?
Puccini began working on La bohème in the early 1890’s with composer Ruggero Leoncavallo. The two had different ideas on the direction the opera should take and ultimately went their separate ways, each composing their own version. This separation sparked a heated rivalry between the two involving politics, leaked stories to local newspapers and even, allegedly, sabotage.
Puccini’s production was the first to take the stage in February of 1896, though Leoncavallo’s followed a few months later and received much better critical review. It appeared Leoncavallo was the victor, until Puccini’s production made its U.S. premiere in Los Angeles the following year. The international acclaim it received helped to make it the definitive La bohème, and its success has continued to this day, inspiring literature, performing arts and music for countless generations.
Inspired by a French episodic novel written in 1847, La bohème is one of the five most performed operas in the world. It is the inspiration for the rock-musical Rent, the 11th-longest running show in the history of Broadway. Today, La bohème is a part of the Standard Italian Opera Repertory and is the most performed opera in the world.
Because of the unique challenges involved with planning such a production, tickets are not available for purchase online. Instead, please call the box office at 860.535.0753 for tickets. If you prefer not to sit directly in the action, there is balcony seating starting at $35 per ticket. The balcony seats also offer an excellent view of the opera.