It's a tragic tale of love that has driven people to tears for more than a century – and if all goes according to plan, there won't be a dry eye in the house as Vancouver Opera kicks off its season Saturday with La Bohème.
Set in the slums of 19th-century Paris, the story follows Mimi, a reserved young seamstress with a rich, romantic inner life who falls for poet Rodolfo – but her failing health cuts into their plans.
"It's a great story, even for opera beginners, because it's not about queens or gods. It's a concrete love story that everyone can relate to," says award-winning Québécoise soprano Marianne Fiset, who is making her Vancouver Opera debut as Mimi.
"Everyone has experienced love or loss or sickness, so it's really easy to get caught up in this opera."
While there have been countless contemporary takes on La Bohème – including Rent, which is loosely based on the famed Puccini work – Vancouver Opera is staying true to tradition with this production, which features lavish sets and costumes, a stunning score, a young and spirited cast and a story so moving that even the performers will be fighting back the waterworks.
"In Act 4, when I'm lying on the bed and Rodolfo realizes that I'm already gone then sings the last 'Mimi', it's so heartbreaking," Ms. Fiset says.
"Every time I have to be careful not to cry because I'm supposed to be dead already."
La Bohème opens Saturday at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and runs until Oct. 27. vancouveropera.ca