What to make of an opera that imitates a musical that imitates an opera? That is basically what has happened in the latest production of La Bohème at the Kennedy Center. Puccini's original opera, which took place in Paris ca. 1840, was later remade into the Broadway musical Rent (incidentally parodied in Team America as Lease). But the current offering by the Washington National Opera combines both with some jarring results: On the one hand you have a classic Puccini opera, the "Quando me'n vo'" aria done well by Alyson Cambridge (Musetta), and solid performances by Slovenian soprano Sabina Cvilak (Mimi) and Mexican tenor Arturo Chacón-Cruz (Rodolfo). On the other hand, you've got Rodolfo recording Mimi with a Camcorder, shown on a screen on stage, while she is singing. Other cast members are using cell phones and cell phone cameras. It's just a little distracting.
On the other hand, the use of surtitles made for some amusing moments--particularly when Mimi lay dying and saying, "I could really use a muff." Then Musetta comes to her aside and lets Mimi touch her muff. "It's so soft!" Mimi sings. Indeed. (Why am I the only one laughing?)
43 minutes ago