THE OTHER LA BOHÈME by Yorker Keith

THE OTHER LA BOHÈME

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Four friends withstand the personal and financial trials of the New York opera scene while performing in La Bohème to break into a first-tier company.

In this novel, Henry Anderson, Stephanie Frank, Jennifer Schneider, and John Bertucci are known by the professional designation Dolci Quattro, or “The Sweet Four.” Bound by their long-standing friendship and devotion to opera since they met at the Manhattan School of Music, they are playing the principal roles in Leoncavallo’s La Bohème, jokingly called “the other La Bohème” because it is infrequently performed compared to the Puccini version. They are passionately committed to opera despite the New York monetary challenges, the cost of private lessons, and the stresses the ascetic lifestyle puts on relationships. Nevertheless, they all struggle. At one point, Henry muses: “I wish I could forget about opera. Then all of my suffering would be over.” Yet they find immense joy in the art form. For Jennifer, “her gift was her life.” If well-attended and praised by critics, this production could be the quartet’s big break. But performing such a controversial version of a beloved piece could mean disaster if not spectacular in vocal quality and execution. The Dolci Quattro members vow to support one another through the emotional turmoil leading up to the opening and the most pivotal moment of their careers. Keith (Remembrance of Blue Roses, 2016) expertly captures the emotional drama and physical exertion of the opera world while employing an intriguing convention: paying homage to La Bohème by mirroring its plot in a modern setting through the Dolci Quattro. The four friends portray the opera principals while simultaneously living like the characters they play, similar to the musical Kiss Me Kate. This lucid tribute extends to cleverly structuring the novel in four acts, broken into scenes rather than chapters. The only misstep: the plot of La Bohème and the story behind its composition aren’t explained until a third of the way through the tale. Despite this flaw, fans of opera and New York fiction should enjoy this appealing homage to the urban bohemian lifestyle.

An engaging twist on a classic opera, lush with drama and romance in a contemporary setting. 

Pub Date: March 23rd, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-4835-9198-8
Page count: 364pp
Publisher: BookBaby
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2017




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