Jaws will drop, but I exchanged my tickets for the Netrebko Boheme here in March for the "second" cast run this month featuring Ana Maria Martinez and Dimitri Pittas. The reason is I found out I will be out of town for work the date of the March tickets and the SO will be on the east coast all of March rehearsing for his own Puccini gig.
It was a new-to-Chicago production imported from San Francisco. A bit fresher than the 1972 production used here thru 2008 but still a very conventional mid-19th century Paris setting. Martinez' Mimi was moving and effective. Pittas, was less so, though still a solid Rodolfo.
The set that struck me most was the garret, for once realistically sized and palpably cramped when all four occupants were home. A thought-provoking change from the penthouse-sized suites typically portrayed. The garret itself was set within a large flat photo panel of the rooftops of Paris taking up the rest of the stage. To me the most effective moment was the first chord of Che gelida manina when the panel blew apart, leaving the garret suspended in a moonlit sky.
It was a generally faithful "do no harm" production, but some annoying directorial choices undercut the action at key points. For example, rather than touching hands in the dark searching for the key, the trigger for Che gelida was the Rodolfo handing Mimi her lost key . Silly and pointless, since the next lines are "What’s the use of looking? We won't find it in the dark". Similarly, the English supertitles involved some unfortunate paraphrasing. Honestly, the libretto already contains the perfect balance of pathos and humor, why do directors and translators feel the need to 'improve' on it?