[Met Performance] CID:248400
New production
La Bohème {784} Metropolitan Opera House: 02/23/1977.

(Debuts: Dale Caldwell, Pier Luigi Pizzi

Metropolitan Opera House
February 23, 1977
Benefit sponsored by the Metropolitan Opera Guild
for the production funds
New production


Mimì....................Renata Scotto
Rodolfo.................Luciano Pavarotti
Musetta.................Maralin Niska
Marcello................Ingvar Wixell
Schaunard...............Allan Monk
Colline.................Paul Plishka
Benoit..................Italo Tajo
Alcindoro...............Andrea Velis
Parpignol...............Dale Caldwell [Debut]
Sergeant................Paul De Paola
Officer.................Domenico Simeone

Conductor...............James Levine

Production..............Fabrizio Melano
Designer................Pier Luigi Pizzi [Debut]
Lighting designer.......Gil Wechsler

[The sets and costumes were borrowed from Lyric Opera of Chicago.]

La Bohème received twenty-four performances this season.

The costs of transporting and refurbishing this production for the Metropolitan Opera have been defrayed by the Metropolitan Opera National Council.

Review of Harold C. Schonberg in The New York Times

It was in Puccini's "La Bohème" that Luciano Pavarotti conquered New York, and he was back at the Metropolitan Opera last night as Rodolfo. This was a new production of the Puccini perennial - new to New York, anyway. It was on loan from the Chicago Opera. The big American houses have been exchanging productions in recent years, and it is a fine as well as a money-saving idea. Especially when the production is as attractive as the "Bohème."

Entirely traditional, it has a realistic garret, a two-level Café Momus scene that may have been suggested by the famous Zefirelli set for La Scala, and a handsome third-act setting. Pier Luigi Pizzi did these sets and costumes, and Fabrizio Melano directed. Mr. Melano's conception involves the usual high jinks, avoiding the more obvious pitfalls. "Bohème" is pretty much cemented by tradition, and no director is going to do anything very unusual in this opera.

There was some handsome singing last night. In addition, the new production gives Mr. Pavarotti some new bits of stage business.

He has always been a rather interesting figure on stage. For one of his bulk (even though he has considerably slimmed down from his former elephantine weight, nobody is going to make him a skinny man), he moves with unusual grace. He has something of the comedian in him, and often gives the feeling that he is actually poking fun at himself. At other times he can be as stilted as any tenor, going through the emotions by rote (open mouth for anguish and so on).

The audience loved some of his touches last night. He hears Mimi's voice. "A woman." He slicks his hair down before a mirror and adjusts his clothes before [going to] the door. He also used some well-known Italian gestures that caused hoots of laughter.

Nobody around today can sing a better Rodolfo, and this despite the fact that the voice has changed somewhat in recent years. It is a little heavier; passages above the staff are not produced as effortlessly as before; sometimes there is a decided feeling of strain. One hopes that the Manricos he has been singing have not taken that lyric bloom from his voice. With all that, he sang most beautifully last night. Only Mr. Pavarotti can spin out long phrases with such authority and color.

Renata Scotto, the Mimi, also had some lovely work to contribute. A bit of scenery-chewer, she milked the death scene for all it was worth. But before that her singing had sensuous appeal, enough size to soar over the orchestra, and a full exploitation of dynamics, from pianissimo through forte. As usual there were one or two bad high notes. Those come along with her singing, and everybody by now is used to them.

The three bohemians full entered the spirit of the production. Ingvar Wixell singing his first Marcello at the Metropolitan, acted well and used his big though somewhat rough voice to good effect. Paul Plishka rose to the occasion for his "Vecchia zimara," and Allan Monk did everything that could be done as Schaunard.

That fine veteran Italo Tajo gave a wonderful characterization of Benoit and Andrea Velis was equally pointed as Alcindoro. The only weak singing of the evening came from Marilin Niska as Musetta. She was considerably off form, unable to get her voice into focus. James Levine conducted, replacing an indisposed Thomas Schippers. It was a typical Levine performance - assured, brilliant, occasionally overstressed. But he did provide a lovely web of sound for Miss Scotto's affecting "Mi chiamano Mimi," and the orchestra played well for him, as it almost always does.

Added Index Entries for Subjects and Names

Back to short citation(s).