Joan and Peggy's Thoughts on Boheme


I walked into the Metropolitan Opera to see the matinee of La Boheme and who do I see but Joan and Peggy also walking towards Lincoln Center. Afterwards I followed them to a local bar and recorded their conversation surreptitiously. We all witnessed the historic last-minute substitution of Kristine Opolais, who had just sung in last night's Madama Butterfly. (The scheduled Mimi, Anita Hartig, was ill.) I could say what I thought of the performance but Peggy and Joan's conversation is just so much more interesting.

Joan: Well, I must say, for a fourth-choice, you weren't a bad date to the opera.

Peggy: Hmm. Well I go to the opera all the time, actually. I live in the neighborhood. This is my third La Boheme I've seen this season. And I was disappointed because Anita Hartig was so good as Mimi and I wanted to see her again.

Joan: Well for someone who likes this opera so much, why don't you learn from the characters?

Peggy: What would I learn?

Joan: Mimi's a seamstress. She could make your clothes look quarter-way decent. Light my cigarette?

Peggy: No, I respect Ms. Opolais, because she's obviously a hard worker, like me. To sing a Butterfly the night before and then sing a Mimi, I like that work ethic. But her voice just doesn't sound as right as Mimi. You had to have heard Hartig. Opolais's voice is a little thin and hard.

Joan: Better to be thin and hard than thin and soft, I say.

Peggy: Her voice also didn't blend well with Grigolo's. Her vowels sounded funny. And the instrument doesn't really rise and bloom with the music.

Joan: Like more than one man I've known.

Peggy: She's a good actress though. She looked like she was dying. I'd like to hear Opolais in other roles. I heard she was a wonderful Butterfly.

Joan: She looks like Betty. How can she play a 15 year old Japanese girl?

Peggy: Well we shall see. And I like Mimi because she also works hard, even if it's not the most glamorous job.

Joan: Musetta works too. She gives singing lessons.

Peggy: Maybe she could give you accordion lessons.

Joan: And I respect Musetta. If she wants a pair of shoes, she finds a man who will buy her those shoes. That's hard work to me. I loved Susanna Phillips! She's shaped like a woman. Her hair color is wonderful. And her voice!

Peggy: Sweet, light, and fluttery, perfect for the part, I agree. I really enjoyed her. And she didn't overact. I think she's my favorite Musetta this season, although the others were good too.

Joan: Can we talk about the men? How come the men at Sterling Cooper can't be as nice?

Peggy: Or charming?

Joan: Or good looking?

Peggy: Or talented?

Joan: Well, the Sterling Cooper men might be richer. But you can't have it all.

Peggy: Can I admit something? When Vittorio Grigolo reached into his shirt and threw his heart out at the audience, I could have sworn he looked at me.

Joan: I was there. He looked at me.

Peggy: If you say so. His voice is really wonderful! So warm and sunny. It makes me want to go to Italy for vacation, if Don ever lets me have a week off.

Joan: He's a good actor. I like how affectionate he is with Mimi. And he sang "Che gelida manina" in key.

Peggy: How would you know about keys?

Joan: I play the accordion, remember?

Peggy: I loved the Marcello too! Massimo Cavaletti. He's got such a nice booming voice. It's manly. It sounds so different from, say, Pete's.

Joan: Well Pete is a girl, remember that.

Peggy: The Colline was really inferior to the previous Collines I saw this season. "Vecchia zamorra" was disappointing. Oren Gradus doesn't have much of a voice.

Joan: Who would say goodbye to such an ugly coat anyway? I had a coat like that once. One day I said "I will never wear this coat again." So I went to a bar, walked up to a man, and voila, I never had to wear that ugly coat again. And the man wasn't even that revolting.

Peggy: I think the aria is touching.

Joan: You would. All your coats look like Colline's.

Peggy: I didn't care for the conducting. He was barely there. Just waving the stick, not doing anything with the music.

Joan: You mean he's like the men of Sterling Cooper. Just waving their sticks.

Peggy: Well, this has been ... interesting. But Don wanted me to go in and look at some ...

Joan: I was wondering how I could leave without sounding rude, but you made that job easy for me. Bye!

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