Opera Memphis' La Boheme 

Opera Memphis' general director Ned Canty describes Giacomo Puccini's always popular La Bohème as "the perfect date opera" and marvels that, 116 years on, all of its characters seem so modern and full of life. It's also a good opera for neophytes to dive into, he says, because each major character has his or her own easily recognized theme, and the text does away with the repetition, so common in opera, in favor of a more focused and direct narrative style. "It has this large ensemble of characters, like a great TV show," Canty says.

Angela Fout, the European-based soprano who's performing on a U.S. stage for the first time in seven years, agrees and thinks the music and lyrics will appeal to fans of pop songstress Adele. Both Canty and Fout insist, however, that Puccini's tragic love story about artists and dreamers, an inspiration for the Broadway musical Rent, isn't just a training-wheels opera.

"Everybody can relate to a story about young people making bad decisions and dealing with the consequences. But as I get older, my perspective changes," Canty says. "The La Bohème I see now isn't that same as the one I saw when I was young and had no apartment, no girlfriend, and lived out of an Isuzu."

Fout says she has a special affinity for the role of Mimi, who ultimately succumbs to consumption:

"I was not a healthy child," she says. "I saw sickness early and grew up really fast. With that kind of sickness comes a special kind of carpe diem. You take chances. You live fast and love big."

"La BohÈme" is at the Germantown Performing Arts Center Friday, November 9th, at 7:30 PM and Sunday, November 11th, at 2 P.M. $33-$74. www.operamemphis.org

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