I'm a Rent fan. I love the music, I love the message, and I love the characters who tell the story through their eyes during "a year in the life." So, naturally, seeing the opera that inspired such a production
was crucial. It would be like seeing the movie without reading the book. For me, it was one of the last pieces of the puzzle to help me grasp the message of the plot: that through seasons, sickness, poverty and even death, love can still hold on.

And I loved every minute of it.

Giacomo Puccini's La Boheme played to a packed house in the Musical Arts Center on Nov. 9, and for good reason. The story of four young bohemians dreaming (and freezing) their way through winter in 1800s
Paris is a tale packed with human emotion and relatable experience, even if not all of us have lived it. The characters are strong, the plot even stronger, and for IU Opera Theater's production, the set just blows your mind.

See a photo album of La Boheme

The opera opens in Paris, on Christmas Eve, 1830. First introduced are two roommates, Rodolfo, a poet, and Marcello, a painter, living in an attic apartment. Both are cold, hungry and desperately trying to create something worthwhile. Soon, their friends Colline and Schaunard arrive, and their spirits are lifted enough to leave their apartment to celebrate the holiday. Rodolfo stays behind, only to meet an enchanting seamstress Mimi, who is obviously not in the best of health.

Photograph by Steven Higgs

IU Opera Theater's production of La Boheme plays Nov. 16 and 17 at the MAC.

And so begins the story of love in a time where darkness and cold weather seem to rule all else. Each role was expertly played by an IU opera student, who brought life and emotion to the character he or she played. While each voice was amazing to listen to, my favorite role was Musetta, played by junior Laura Waters, who is the ex-lover of Marcello. Her voice was stunning, and Waters injected so much sass and power into the role that it was impossible to take my eyes off her.

Her infectious energy was complemented well with the hot-tempered personality of Marcello, played by Kenneth Pereira, who hated to love her but couldn't stop if he tried. Their comedic chemistry was complemented well with the soft, romantic, yet ill-fated affair between Rodolfo and Mimi. Both voices were unbelievably powerful, and the emotion between the two filled the concert hall. You didn't even need to read the super titles to understand the interactions between them, and that undeniable passion swept the audience off its feet until the very last scene and put tears into the eyes.

Plot aide, the other elements of production were well-done as well. I liked how they used a red wig for Musetta's character. It added a little more punch to the character's already fiery spirit. The costumes were perfectly bohemian, very worn-in but not tattered, and just the right amount of drab color. A good costume department is crucial for an opera, because without dialogue, the visual cues have to suggest class and social status, and the crew for this production did a fantastic job.

But the gold star of the night went to the set designers and crew, because the set was out of this world. Rumored to have cost $1 million, the elaborate set pieces folded, rotated and shifted like a real-estate ballet. The set piece for the "Cafe Momus" scene was my favorite of the lot, with the fantastic uses of color, light and realistic spacing to create street corners and walkways. The already joyous scene was taken above and beyond, and became that much more effective than it would have been with just a simple backdrop.

IU Opera Theater's production of La Boheme was absolutely amazing, from the casting to the costumes and, of course, with that breathtaking set. At the very least, it has primed me for next week's roduction of Rent.

I would definitely see it again.

Caitlin Brase can be reached at .