Reviews: La Bohème - Detroit Opera

Reviews: La Bohème

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Audience Reactions



Superb and fascinating performance! Well sung and acted by each of the featured singers. I was surprised at how much I actually enjoyed the reversal of the acts! It made it "new", without losing the beauty of well-known arias, and stimulated conversation with other friends who had attended this Sunday afternoon performance with us, and then with other friends by telephone afterwards.
In some respects, the reversal probably reflects memory as it often is - we think of the newest memories, and then the older ones come back to us. So the loss of Mimi would be the strongest and first memory anyone would actually get; and then we would think back what happened to get us to that point. Given the craziness of our society these days, the loss of many people we know through Covid and other illnesses, why not reverse the usual pattern of operas like this? Some could not reverse well; this could.
My compliments to the Director and the Conductor and Orchestra, and especially to the leading singers that carried the weight of this story through their emotionally correct and beautiful singing. What a joy to be back in the Opera House! May the Detroit Opera continue to present unusual versions of operas in the future - as long as they can be as well done as this one.


Missed having no set except a few pieces of furniture.
Missed the bit with the landlord.
The latin quarter chorus was to short.
100 minuets is a bit to long for my wife and others who left during performance then returned


I was unable to enjoy the performance because, despite notices of no late seating, the usher brought a man in 30 minutes late and the man immediately put his mask in his pocket, having only used it to get in. I felt unsafe. The mask protocol is unenforced.


Having been to Detroit opera many times, I was so excited to come back for the first time since pandemic. When I found it would be presented in reverse (after buying tickets) I decided to keep an open mind but expected to NOT enjoy this twist on one of the most famous operas ever with music I have loved since I was a little girl. This production did not disappoint….I totally wasted my money and my Sunday afternoon. Although the singers and orchestra moved me to tears for their magnificent performance, I was appalled at the sets, costumes, and props used in this production, not to mention the reverse acts which completely stole the emotional draw to all of these characters in whole. A fluorescent tube? Splats of paint on the background canvas? A single archway as a set? I might expect this from an amateur company but not the Detroit opera. I’m immensely disappointed that you have chosen to embrace gimmicks instead of presenting the gift of opera as given to us by it’s composers and librettists that could last the ages. I’ll be reading the fine print on your productions before buying tickets if I ever come back


The “reverse” idea was awful. Instead of the audience getting to know the characters, following the ups and downs of their sorrows and joys, and ultimately sharing their sadness during the death of Mimi, you are presented with a time warp that destroys any buildup of emotion.
When the “innovative” opera begins with the death of Mimi, you see the sadness of the other characters, but you don’t feel it. You haven’t yet been introduced to them, let alone gotten to know them.
The anti-chronological flashbacks, with each scene further back than the previous one, is confusing, distracting and annoying. The drama fails to build with the progression.
A flashforward opening scene can be an effective technique in a movie or other presentation where it keeps the audience attentive, looking for explanations for the outcome it knows will occur. But, it is an out-of-place detraction where the culmination is a sad tragedy.
This version of La Bohème was reminiscent of bread pudding. It has achieved its zenith. But every self-aggrandizing chef feels compelled to “improve” it with his innovative fingerprint, adding chocolate, lemon or some other adulteration. Giacomo Puccini, Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa don’t need any tampering with their fine work.


I thought this was an interesting take on my all time favorite opera. Casting was superb.
I am not sure how this would be received by someone who wasn't familiar with the story but I loved it. I thought the minimal set decoration enhanced rather than detracted from the performance in that the focus stayed on the characters and their relationships.
Well done, Detroit Opera!


Matthew White (Rodolfo) will be one of the most coveted leading tenors within the next five years, mark my words!


The performance and directing was outstanding. We had our doubts when we learned the opera would be backwards, without intermission, but it not only did it ‘work’ but it was just as moving, still leaving us in tears at the end. It was so poignant knowing how young love would turn to deep sorrow.


The singers were excellent; acting in more than a few places less so: I heard chemistry between the lovers in their voices, but didn't see it play out physically. Set design concept very interesting and worked well--mostly. In the pre-talk the director, Mr. Sharon, suggested that he wanted to convey a vibrant Parisian street scene in Act II, but I found it just chaotic, not to mention badly under-lit (yest, I know it's night, but as a designer myself, I would not have been satisfied with this scene at all). I was worried for the jammed crowd trying to walk on a revolving raked stage: one person tripping could have brought everyone down. Needs a bigger stage or a smaller chorus. Sparklers for the parade torches was a nice touch; and the right to the jaw for Alcindoro was great--that he remained unconcious into the next scene was also a nice touch.


Was immediately takin in by the premise the Director wanted to convey - La Boheme is an opera that contains some of the most beautiful music “ the Cannon “ has to offer.
(the maestro and orchestra were superb - by actually following what Puccini composed)
But to be able to look at a masterpiece in a different way is challenging- but This production successfully takes you to a new road in the streets of Paris - a road that seems somewhat familiar - but yet somehow different walking in the other direction.
Bravo to all involved. The singers were absolutely to be believed and thoroughly enjoyed !

Nancy S.

I've seen LaBoheme twice before at Detroit's Opera house and both were amazing performances. SAD to say this 'new' version was NOT good! I don't blame the performers, they did the best they could with this 'new' version. Remember, some go to the opera to enjoy a classic and are NOT always looking for changes, some things need to be left alone! It was an EXPENSIVE way to spend a Sunday and to be so disappointed!


La Boheme was absolutely fabulous! Doing the story in reverse is a brilliant idea! It was not so sad; it was inspiring! My two 15-year-old granddaughters loved the performance. This was their first opera.


Having seen this opera (and loved it!), I thought the reversal of the acts was an unusual decision.
But starting with the slower (yet dramatic) death scene and moving toward the more up-tempo earlier acts gave
the performance an interesting momentum. My husband, who had never been to an opera, said it flew by. We'll be back soon!


Bravo! The performance was breathtaking. Who knew you could reverse the scenes and the storyline be so joyous. Well done!


As the scenes progressed my attachment for the characters grew. It was knowing what they were about to go through from the beginning that made that happen. Scene one when we witnessed Mimi’s death, I cried. From that point I was forever connected to each character. The costumes were tailored to the period elegantly and the children's choir, delightful. The subtle yet swift scene changes kept the story flowing.

La Bohème backwards works. Bravo, Detroit Opera!


The singing and orchestra were wonderful, but the stage settings were dull & sparse. Reversing the opera’s chronology was absurd & disconcerting. There’s a reason classical operas have been around for so many years; audiences love them they way they were intended.


I love this reimagining of La Bohème. Change is good. I appreciate ending on a happy note. The pop of color from the Children's Chorus costuming added to the carnival atmosphere -it was pure joy. I loved the addition of the Wanderer - so clever. We can't wait to see it again. Thank you Detroit Opera for an amazing evening.


A great New production!!! Even with tragedy at the outset, it did not beget despair but HOPE as LOVE ABOUNDS, it was Magical with all the gorgeous voices doing justice to La BOHEME!!! FABULOUS!!!


The vocal performances, across the board, were terrific! That having been said, everything else hit a wrong note. After having been away from the Opera House for two years, I was disappointed to come back to see such a sparse set where, apparently, every expanse was spared. Neither the costumes nor the set did anything to suggest the poverty in which the characters lived. In fact the characters were too well-dressed to engender any sympathy from the audience for their desperate living conditions and efforts to find joy in art and love despite those conditions. I have seen other productions of this magnificent opera and have been moved by the story of love and loss. The “gimmickry” (I can find no other word) of the backward production totally destroyed the emotional impact. If this is our current artistic director’s idea of making his mark, I fear for the future of our opera company. There was no need to “reimagine” opera to weaken its emotional impact.


Wonderful performance. The arias were beautiful. I loved the backwards telling and the ending with love just beginning.


This was my family’s first time at the opera and I must say we really enjoyed it! The singing and the acting was way better than anything I could have imagined. My 13 year old son was apart of the show, we came to see him and witnessed a great show also!

M. LaPointe

I was not particularly impressed with the performance. I found the reverse interpretation clumsy and although "death" was acting as the narrarator to tell us we were going back in time, unless you read the playbill you did not know the man with the cane in the white suit was death and his function was as narrator. I quietly explained that to my mother. She enjoyed the show, but for me this was not my first opera and I found it lacking.
Also the acoustics are pretty bad in the DOT. I prefer the Wharton Center in East Lansing where the vocals and music really open up and soar.


I found this version of the Boheme very pretty and interesting. I have seen other five versions before. The story told us backwards gives life to an interesting crescendo that has nothing to envy to that of the original version. It is nice for once not to witness a tragic finale and instead to be led gradually from the dramatic event of Mimi's death to the Addio Senza Rancor, to the joy of Christmas in Paris with Musetta, Parpignol and the Ritirata. In this way you get to listen to the initial cavatinas only at the very end and will go home with the Oh soave fanciulla playing in your head. The director's decision was bold but modern. Opera needs to modernize itself too! Everything was enjoyable. There were no cuts or change to the music and everything sounded amazing, exactly as if Puccini would have designed it to be staged upside down. The singers and the orchestra were of course amazing too. I had the perfect evening! Thanks


Singers were terrific, performance was substandard.
The story as presented was incomprehensible. The composer presented a linear performance, introducing the characters and developing them in an understandable manner. What was presented to us Saturday was a mishmash. A wise old man once said:"when you have a good thing going, shut up."Your "artistic" person apparently does not get this concept.


Singing, especially Mimi (Marlen Nahhas), was excellent. Bravo, also, to the Detroit Opera orchestra for their crisp and robust playing. We were surprisingly pleased with the reverse story telling, and think it worked very well. After two years of the pandemic, ending on a hopeful note seems very appropriate. Thank you Mr. Sharon.

The use of the "Wanderer" as a narrator to link the story from the end of one act to the beginning of the next was clever. But, it should have been left at that. Having him interrupt the music with inane questions during a scene was somewhat jarring and spoiled the mood and flow.
The minimalistic set design and stage direction worked well and reduced the time for scene changes. This was especially important in regards to the challenge of performing the complete opera with no intermissions in 100 minutes.


Wonderfully creative adaptation that seems perfect for our time!
Ending with one of the most beautiful arias ever written was magic! Thank you!


Wonderful singing! Mimi was outstanding! Distracted as I was by the preposterousness of the “backwards” concept and the ridiculous “Wanderer” [“What if Mimi hadn’t dropped her key?”], I was still entranced by the wonderful music. Bravi!!


It was good but I prefer the opera from beginning to end not reversed.


As my very first opera I fell in love. I'm in love with the new name of the opera house (and I usually hate change.) Brilliant idea to reverse the story, given my understanding of purpose was because in the 2.5 years of illness and death we could all use to walk away feeling some love and hope. Using the narrator worked. The vocal performances moved me and the costumes, lighting, staging, including moving stage. added to the simple elegance of the entire production. Bravo and thank you. I'm hooked. What's next?

Art Rose

Singing was magnificent - all 4 leads, especially Rodolfo. Set was deficient, putting it mildly. Reversal was okeh; but I would pass on the opportunity to repeat it.


Fantastic performance. Beautiful set. Very creative. Voices were outstanding from the lead roles to the group chorus. Pit orchestra was fabulous. Powerful, beautiful sound. I enjoyed the music as much as the acting and singing.
I would have preferred an intermission.

Corrine Staten

Absolutely amazing! I went with my mother and Father for their 29th Wedding Anniversary. We had amazing seats and the show itself was amazing. Loved seeing the show finally and seeing it in reverse really made the show completely different! The singers were amazing and made the sory come to life and the background painting was beautiful! Would love to see it over and over again!


This is a beautiful rendering of la Boheme. i especially loved the leads. The orchestra sounds phenomenal. I could come again and just listen to the orchestra.
Keep up the good work.