The Other La Bohème

The Other La Boheme

 

Yorker Keith

Three Stars

 

It won’t matter if you’re not an opera aficionado, you’re still going to be able to enjoy this book; but if you have any insight into the world of opera them you will probably love this novel.

This book mainly follows the lives of four people, Jennifer, Stephanie, Henry and John, forming the group Dolci Quattro, although there is also a cast of at least 14 minor characters in this book to keep track of, making it at times a little unwieldy. The four met in university, forming a firm friendship where they pledged allegiance to support one another until they made it as a singer to a top tier opera company. This story follows their lives as they struggle with a new opera company trying itself to become a legitimate entity in its own right in New York City. And the opera they are rehearsing? La Boheme by Leoncavallo.

This book is rich in experience, transporting the reader into the world of opera and all that it demands of its singers. More than once there are passages extolling the virtue and exacting nature of the work it requires of any performer wishing to become an opera performer. But it also follows the life of the four outside of their work in the opera.

Jennifer is engaged to Richard, a wealthy banker who expects the very best in life, but who has been distracted and distant for a while. Stephanie is estranged from her rich father, blaming him for her mother’s untimely death and refusing to reconcile with him. John is married to Michelle, herself a painter, who expects a normal suburban life with a man determined to sing opera whilst balancing working and supporting her. Henry is exploring a relationship with a woman and he doesn’t know if she can truly support his work and dedication to the opera and is under pressure from his family to give up opera singing and ‘settle down’. We follow the ups and downs of the core four as they navigate life and ambition.

This book is set out in Acts and Scenes like an opera would be rather than chapters, but it really isn’t a challenge to follow the story. You understand throughout the book the single mindedness that it takes to make it in this creative field. At times the parts of the book written about the actual opera could be a little tiring as it was so technical and exact, but having the words of the opera translated from Italian into English was a real treat, as it made the opera come alive.

This is a wonderful story delving into another world. Engaging, touching and enlightening, this is a great read for those who wish to see into an alternative domain.

 

 

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