Florentine Opera Celebrates Milwaukee with a Bronzeville Boheme Families Will Love


Raise your hand if, like me, you have been missing the performing arts the last year. Everything from the plays at the community theater to stand up comedy to large scale stage musicals….. I miss it. 

The Florentine Opera has come up with a genius way to create a Milwaukee-centric opera that is available for everyone to enjoy for FREE from the comfort of their homes (or wherever they happen to be) so that families can experience the performing arts even in these unique times.

Presenting…..Bronzeville Boheme

This unique show takes the familiar opera La Boheme and not only condenses it down to a 32 minute production, but transforms it into a celebration of Milwaukee and her history. Set in the Bronzeville neighborhood in the 40s and 50s, this vibrant and financially self-sustaining neighborhood was primarily occupied by African Americans, many of whom arrived via The Great Migration. These families and businesses worked hard to support themselves and the community during the era of Jim Crow laws and redlining.

Directed by Sheri Williams Pannell, a Bronzeville native, this show is not just a reimagining of one of the most well known operas of all time, it’s an exploration of Milwaukee’s story. 

How Families Can Enjoy Bronzeville Boheme

We got the opportunity to chat about Bronzeville Boheme with John Stumpff
of The Florentine Opera about how families can enjoy and engage with this fun and unique show. Check out the video below and learn more about all sorts of interactive ideas including:

  • A “Night at the Opera” during Spring Break (all ages)
  • Creating a homeschool or virtual lesson plan about Bronzeville Milwaukee (elementary and up)
  • Music Lesson or a Sing-along (preschool, early elementary)
  • Discussion about Opera: Assumption vs. Reality (elementary and up) 
  • Lesson: Effects of Systemic Racism on Communities (high school and up)

…..and so much more!

Bronzeville Boheme in Ten - A Video Q&A with The Florentine Opera

In this 10 minute video, we chat with John at The Florentine Opera about the process of transforming La Boheme into Bronzeville Boheme, how opera is so much more than just “fancy Italian singing,” and what families will love about this FREE experience.

How to Watch Bronzeville Boheme

Bronzeville Boheme is available to enjoy online, totally FREE! 

Also on this same website, you will find resources that include a synopsis of the show, behind-the-scenes videos, a photo gallery, interviews with the numerous local artists who contributed to the production, and even Meet the Actor videos with the talented performers who brought the show to life.

Creative Ways for Families to Enjoy Bronzeville Boheme

Bronzeville Boheme is available to enjoy online, totally FREE! 

Want to do more than just watch the video on your phone or laptop? We’ve got some awesome ideas for you to really kick your Bronzeville Boheme experience into high gear for you and your family, no matter what age your kiddos are!

A “Night at the Opera” during Spring Break

  • perfect for kids of all ages
  • Hook up your computer or screencast to your television so you can enjoy Bronzeville Boheme in your living room with the whole family gathered around. Make popcorn, get dressed up like you are having “a night at the opera,” or maybe make “opera glasses” out of cardboard toilet paper rolls so kids can pretend to watch the opera through them. Lay out blankets and have a living room picnic or create fancy “box seats” with extra pillows and blanket.

Create a homeschool or virtual lesson plan about Bronzeville Milwaukee

  • upper elementary age and up
  • Bring history to live through the production of Bronzeville Boheme
  • Prior to viewing the show, do research with your kids (or have them research on their own) about the Bronzeville neighborhood. What brought people to Bronzeville? What was unique about it?
  • Take a deeper dive into the history of Bronzeville with these resources: KingDriveIs.com | Encyclopedia of Milwaukee |Remembering Bronzeville, UWWM

Music Lesson or a Sing-along

  • preschool & early elementary
  • It can be tough to incorporate the arts into virtual education, so Bronzeville Boheme is the perfect opportunity!
  • Watch the show together and talk about your favorite songs.
  • View the video of Cab Calloway singing Minnie the Moocher and then have your child listen for the song to appear in Bronzeville Boheme. How were they similar? How were they different? Can they repeat the familiar melody of the song?
  • Want to hear more of the music from the opera? CLICK HERE for more videos to listen and enjoy!

Discussion about Opera: Assumption vs. Reality

  • elementary and up
  • A great topic for kids to think critically about how they have seen opera portrayed in movies, TV and pop culture versus what they see performed in Bronzeville Boheme. What images come to mind when they think about opera? Are there assumptions we make about opera? Why do we think those opinions are there and how did we come to think that way? Do these assumptions change or are reinforced after watching the show?
  • Go further – continue to research the history of opera, watch the behind the scenes videos that go into depth about everything from scene design to props and how a show is created, find more portrayals of opera in pop culture and consider the impression they create.

Discussion: Effects of Systemic Racism on Communities

  • high school and up
  • The choice to take La Boheme and transport it to Bronzeville Milwaukee in the era of Jim Crow is a purposeful one. Using the performance as a springboard, consider and discuss the generational effects of the historical context of the show.
  • What was The Great Migration? What effect did redlining have on these communities? What were Jim Crow laws? After viewing the performance together, how do we see this history coming alive in the show? How do we see these effects still showing up TODAY, here in Milwaukee? What can we do to try to be part of a movement of change for equality? 

No matter what works best for your family, we hope you will take the 32 minutes to watch and enjoy Bronzeville Boheme. The performing arts in Milwaukee are a profound and important part of who we are as a city and now, more than ever, we all need to show our support for those who grace our stages!


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