Puccini's Bohemian Rhapsody: 10 FAQs

Cincinnati Opera's 2017 season opens with one of the most beloved operas of all time, Puccini's La Bohème. Read on for details on the set, cast, ticket-buying tips, and more!

1. What’s the story?
La Bohème is a classic love story between two impoverished young Parisians. She’s a seamstress and he’s a poet. It was inspired by real-life bohemians who lived and loved in the 1840s.

2. What about the set and costumes?
The “look” of our 2017 Bohème is inspired by iconic black-and-white photos of Paris in the 1930s—a couple at a corner table in a café, a fur-collared madame with countless bracelets and rings, a man on the street in silhouette wearing a fedora and topcoat. Just Google "Bressaï images," and you’ll see.

3. Who’s singing?
The lovely soprano Nicole Cabell returns to sing Mimì in her fifth engagement with Cincinnati Opera. Sean Panikkar, an American tenor of Sri Lankan heritage who recently made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera, appears with us for the first time as the writer Rodolfo.

Cincinnati Opera's 2010 production of La Bohème. Photo: Philip Groshong

Cincinnati Opera's 2010 production of La Bohème. Photo: Philip Groshong

4. Is the CSO’s Music Director conducting?
Yes! We’re particularly delighted to welcome Louis Langrée to conduct all four performances of La Bohème. In addition to serving as Music Director for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Maestro Langrée is a regular at the Metropolitan Opera and the acclaimed Vienna State Opera, among others.

5. What is the running time?
Performances of Bohème will last 2 hours and 15 minutes. (This includes one intermission.)

6. You’re at the Aronoff—what’s that like?
Our audience really enjoyed being at the Aronoff last year. From patron amenities to sightlines to first-rate acoustics, opera at the Aronoff was excellent. Here’s one revealing fact: 92% of our Tosca audience last year rated the acoustics at the Aronoff as "Good" or "Excellent." And one regular wrote, “This was my first trip to the Aronoff. It’s a wonderful facility and was an admirable stand-in for Music Hall.” Looking ahead to next season, construction is on track for a reopening of Music Hall in October and our return in the summer of 2018.

7. When was the last time Cincinnati Opera did La Bohème?
It’s been nearly seven years since our last performance of La Bohème. It was the final opera of our 2010 season in a production that featured Ailyn Pérez and Stephen Costello. You can watch a video of their singing the first-act duet from Bohème at the piano here.

8. Where should I sit and how much are tickets?
All available seats at the Aronoff offer an unobstructed view of the stage. For the very best location, consider seats in the center section of the orchestra or the center section of the loge. And remember to buy early for best selection and price. Prices start at about $45. Currently, you’ll find better availability for the June 22 and 24 performances.

9. How do I purchase tickets?
Many patrons prefer to purchase online because the system allows you to browse available inventory and select individual seats for purchase. Here’s a link to the Bohème performances. We’re also happy to take your order over the phone during box office hours: Monday thru Friday from 10 to 5. Our box office team will be very happy to help you find the best seats for your budget.

10. Where can I learn more?
Click here for complete information. You can learn about our cast, read a new essay by Opera 101 author Fred Plotkin, and more.

Our Rodolfo: Sean Panikkar

Tenor Sean Panikkar, "one of the stars of his generation" (Opera News), has performed on stages across the world, from the Metropolitan Opera to Teatro alla Scala in Italy. This summer, he'll join us in the Queen City for his Cincinnati Opera debut to sing the dreamer and poet Rodolfo in La Bohème. Read on for the inside scoop on how Sean is preparing for his role, what he thinks of Rodolfo, and how he'll spend his free time in Cincinnati!

Tenor Sean Panikkar sings Rodolfo in La Bohème. Photo: Kristina Sherk

Tenor Sean Panikkar sings Rodolfo in La Bohème. Photo: Kristina Sherk

You have performed in La Bohème before. What can you tell me about the different approaches to this classic opera?
The productions of La Bohème I've done have been fairly traditional. I have been in very intimately set productions, and even a large spectacle production in the round at London's Royal Albert Hall. While the set changes, the core of the story always remains the same.

Tell me a little about how you prepare for a role.
Classic operas and new works both require a lot of work, the preparation is a little different. For a work like La Bohème, there is a performance tradition that people are expecting, so studying prior performances is helpful. For world premieres and newer works, there is a slightly more involved process of finding and developing the character completely from scratch.

What are your impressions of Rodolfo?
Rodolfo is a heart-on-his-sleeve kind of guy. He's the perfect opera character because you get the sense that he would be the same guy who bares his emotions all the time, even if he weren't in an opera!

La Bohème is one of the most frequently performed operas of all time. Why do you think it continues to resonate so well with audiences?
La Bohème is a story about relationships, and that's the core of what drives us as humans. Bohème is immediately relatable on a personal level to every audience member, and when you combine that with Puccini's glorious score, it's no wonder that La Bohème has continued to remain in the repertory.

Will your family be joining you at any point in Cincinnati?
Yes, my wife Jane, Maria (8), and Mark (5) will be with me. We usually go down the list of top 10 things to do in whatever town we are in, and knock out as many things as possible. I'm looking forward to visiting the zoo, taking in a Reds game, and visiting the Ark Encounter.

Meet Mimì: Nicole Cabell

Soprano Nicole Cabell has been a Cincinnati Opera fan favorite since she first graced the stage as the Countess in our 2009 Marriage of Figaro, and her “tone of liquid gold” (Opera News) keeps the audience longing for her next return. We’re thrilled that Nicole will join us once again to sing the charming Mimì in La Bohème! Read on to find out what she’s most looking forward to this summer, and why she keeps coming back to Cincinnati!

Why do you love opera?
Opera is an art form that incorporates beautiful music, lush costumes and staging, and universal human truths through storytelling. 

How do you think opera can benefit our community?
It’s important for people to understand culture and history, and opera is an integral example of both. Great, civilized cities have opera houses for a reason

How do you think opera can be more accessible?
Bringing opera to schools and introducing it on television has always been an excellent way to expose newbies and students to the art form. Now, we have the internet, and can continue to build opera’s profile online through alluring websites and social media.

Do you think opera can change lives?
Absolutely! Anything that invokes a powerful emotional response can, and what better way than through the epic music and stories of opera?

What are you most looking forward to this summer?
I’m always excited to return to Cincinnati Opera, one of the most important opera houses in America. It is a beautifully run company with a warm audience and consistently high standards. 

Meet the Artist: Jasmine Habersham

An alumna of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Jasmine Habersham is a young artist who has worked with the Cincinnati Opera's Opera Fusion: New Works program on several occasions. This July, we're thrilled that Jasmine will make her Cincinnati Opera mainstage debut in our charming new production of Mozart's The Magic Flute. Read on to get to know our Papagena!

Why do you love opera?
I love telling stories, and I love singing beautiful music. Opera is a unique art form that allows you to combine the two media.

How do you think opera can benefit our community?
When executed well, opera should be able to reach any person, regardless of class, race, or social status. When different people connect, amazing things can happen.

How do you think opera can be more accessible?
Creating new operas around stories that are relevant to our culture
will really hit home for people. We need more operas about modern-day heroes and the current social and political climate.

Do you think opera can change lives?
Yes, opera can give people a chance to explore their individual creativity. Opera can inspire a future librettist, composer, singer, dancer, or make-up artist.

What are you most looking forward to this summer?
I'm really looking forward to singing in this exciting production of The Magic Flute! I've never worked with so many projections [see trailer], so I am looking forward to the challenge!