in partnership withLocal 12 News
La Bohème is a timeless and world-renowned opera about love, loss, and the perils of youth. See it at the Aronoff Center June 15, 17, 22, and 24. / Image: Sherry Hopkins

Why Cincinnati Opera’s "La Bohème" Is The Most Relatable Opera You’ll Ever See

Cincinnati Opera’s season begins June 15 with a world-renowned production of La Bohème. Featuring a stunning set, stirring performances, and a story that will seem eerily relatable, it's sure to be the hottest ticket in town. (Get yours here)


The scene is Paris’s Latin Quarter in the 1930s. A coterie of lively young Bohemians is roving the streets in search of wine, romance, and artistic inspiration. They lack money and status, but they’re wry and untroubled, and the audience loves them for it.

Such is the setting of La Bohème, Cincinnati Opera’s first production of 2017. If you’ve heard of the opera, you’re not alone; it’s supremely popular around the world. It has also served as the foundation for numerous derivative works like Rent.

The work’s appeal is no mystery. Replace a few nouns in that scene above and you can describe everything from The Decameron to Friends, not to mention OTR on a Saturday night. It is, in short, a highly applicable story, related to us through music that everyone can understand.


Yes, you read that right. La Bohème's music is glorious—and made more so with Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Music Director Louis Langrée conducting. But the music is also famously accessible, with arresting choruses and a prosaic libretto. That is to say, you won’t need to be an opera expert to get your money’s worth, nor will you need to know exactly what’s going on in every song to get a sense of its meaning.

But if you are concerned with knowing exactly what’s going on in every song, might we recommend getting to the performance an hour early for a pre-curtain lecture in the Aronoff Center’s Jarson-Kaplan Theater? There you’ll be treated to an overview of the story plus insights into the opera’s history, music, production, and set design. It’s free with a ticket to the show. No reservations are required.


As opera aficionados know, La Bohème is originally set in the 1840s. But the time change is a welcome one, because it allows this production to draw from the work of Parisian photographer Brassaï. His 35,000 black and white photos furnished inspiration for the moody and evocative set.

What’s the set like? You can see in the gallery above. But if you’re not so inclined, imagine an artist at the end of a fuming cigarette, sitting at a café under overcast skies with a beret on her head and the Champs-Élysées in the background that’s the impression you form. It’s on the verge of being plain, but you have to remember its purpose—to highlight the colorful lives of those in the foreground—and it does that exceptionally well.

- -

Cincinnati Opera’s production of La Bohème will be presented at the Aronoff Center June 15, 17, 22, and 24. For tickets and showtimes, go here. For more information about production, visit the Cincinnati Opera’s website.