In a reimagining of Puccini’s ‘La Bohème’, the Boston Lyric Opera goes upside down

Jared Bowen, GBH’s Executive Arts Editor, shares his insight into the latest arts and culture happening in and around Boston.

On view at the Emerson Colonial Theater through October 2

This Boston Lyric Opera retelling of Puccini’s classic opera is notable for being told backwards. In this version of La Bohème, the story begins with Mimi’s death from tuberculosis and what Bowen calls “the rupture that this represents” before the audience returns to Mimi and Rodolfo’s romance.

While reversing the structure of the opera may seem to make for a happier ending, Bowen says, “I find it brings in a different kind of resonance in that you are more deeply aware of the tragedy of this story, because in the end you ‘see this love and you already remember intimately how it will end. The stripped-back plot taps into the simplicity of the characters’ lives: “They really only had each other and they make art,” Bowen said.

MIT Museum

Opening October 2

The MIT museum, closed since 2020, reopens this weekend in a new location in Kendall Square in Cambridge, which Bowen describes as a suitable space “at the heart of innovation”. The museum’s three-story building also allows for much larger exhibition space than its former home in the central plaza.

The museum’s goal is to “subvert MIT so we’re exposed to things we’ve never really read.” Showcasing prototypes of groundbreaking science technologies, from the Starshade pedal used by NASA for space photography to the device used to prove Einstein’s theory of relativity, the museum reminds visitors that “it’s true , humanity has actually worked on these things, and it’s sitting there right in front of you,” Bowen said.

Other exhibits are more interactive, allowing visitors to converse with robots or collaborate to create AI poetry. Bowen says this element, while having a certain “scary factor,” also makes visitors wonder about the myth of MIT: “What are we doing right now? What’s the impact?” And, he added, “Because of that, they also bring in artists who have exhibits that question exactly what’s going on.”

The entrance to the MIT Museum, which opens this weekend in Cambridge’s Kendall Square.

Anna Olivella / MIT Museum

William Shattuck: Reveries

Now on view at the New Bedford Whaling Museum until December 30

William Shattuck is a local artist who paints the natural scenes of Cape Town and southeastern Massachusetts. Although his work is often described as both “enchanting” and “disturbing”, Bowen points out that Shattuck said “he wants his paintings to be the power of suggestion – let the visitor complete the work”.

In addition to the visuals, Bowen says that Shattuck “wants you to feel and have all the sensory experiences when you’re in these works.” Representations of New England landscapes in Shattuck’s work include elements such as fog, bodies of water, trees, and twilight, which provide viewers with the opportunity to make their own emotional connections with the paintings and the natural world that inspires them.

"Moment"  is a landscape portrait by William Shattuck, it is an oil painting of a marsh at sunset.  The sky is illuminated with gold and pink.  In the foreground is a brown bog.  Beyond the swamp is water and in front is an island of trees and rocks.  The whole image is hazy, which makes it dreamlike.
“Moment” by William Shattuck.

William Shattuck / New Bedford Whaling Museum