Get artistic with 'La Boheme' production

  • IF YOU GO

  • • WHAT: "La Boheme"

    • WHERE: The Wortham Theater Center, 500 Texas Avenue, Houston

    • WHEN: Through Nov. 10

    COST: $33-$340

    •  WHAT: "Death of a Salesman"

    •  WHEN: Through Sunday

    • WHERE: The Alley Theatre, 615 Texas Ave., Houston

    COST: $26-$78

    • WHAT: ...

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  • IF YOU GO

    • WHAT: "La Boheme"

    • WHERE: The Wortham Theater Center, 500 Texas Avenue, Houston

    • WHEN: Through Nov. 10

    COST: $33-$340

    •  WHAT: "Death of a Salesman"

    •  WHEN: Through Sunday

    • WHERE: The Alley Theatre, 615 Texas Ave., Houston

    COST: $26-$78

    • WHAT: Life in the Universe

    • WHEN: Through fall 2012

    • WHERE: Houston Museum of Natural Science, 5555 Hermann St., Houston

    COST: $7-$8

    INFO: hmns.org

    •  WHAT: "Macbeth"

    • WHEN: Through Saturday

    •  WHERE: The EmilyAnn Theatre, 1101 Farm-to-Market Road 2325, Wimberley

    COST: $15

    • WHAT: "American Made: 250 Years of American Art at the Museum of Fine Arts," in Houston

    • WHEN: Through Jan. 1

    • WHERE: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet St., Houston

    • COST: $10

You may not have ever seen "La Boheme," but I'll bet you'd recognize the story.

It's about a group of struggling artists living in Paris, trying to get by and live life on their own terms while staying true to art.

The poet Rodolfo meets and falls in love with Mimi, a young seamstress. If this story sounds familiar that's because it's what Jonathan Larson's musical "Rent" was based on. Maybe that is why "La Boheme" is one of the most popular operas in the world and one of the most easily accessible. If you're looking for an introduction into the world of opera, this is the ticket.

The opera was written by Giacomo Puccini in 1896. Puccini was once a struggling artist much like the characters he was writing about, but by the time he wrote this work he was pretty much safely on the other side of that struggle. "La Boheme" cemented his progress. The opera was a huge hit and these days it has become one of the most performed operas in the world (only "Madame Butterfly," also by Puccini, has been performed more).

Puccini's take on opera was rooted in the fluid Romantic style best associated with Verdi, but his stories went in for realism, for those dramatic slices of real life that are as heart-wrenching as overblown tragedies. "La Boheme" wasn't about royalty, but was focused on artists and poets and musicians, all poor and unknown. That was what made it so fascinating to watch, about art and poverty and love and how all of these things impact each other.

The Houston Grand Opera is one of the best companies around, known for staging productions that take risks but also for offering a fleet of damn good singers.

Opera isn't something most people come to naturally. Much like coffee, or a slew of other good things, it's a taste that many have to acquire. But it is worth giving it a try and settling in and taking in "La Boheme," one of the operas that you can't help but love. I don't think it's possible to watch Mimi and Rodolfo in those last moments and not have the music tug at your guts, pulling on the best parts of us that make us human.

The opera is showing through Nov. 10.