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Puccini, Puccini, Puccini

La Boheme is everywhere, and it reaches critical mass over the next week or so. The New York City Opera tour of Puccini's opera plays Ruth Eckerd Hall and Van Wezel Hall on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Productions of La Boheme are on cable TV's Bravo Saturday night and on public television Wednesday night. And at Sarasota Opera, the most performed work in the repertory this season was _ what else? _ La Boheme, with a final performance on Sunday.

If all that was not enough, La Boheme will be with us in somewhat different form next season when Jonathan Larson's Rent, the acclaimed rock musical inspired by the opera, plays Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. To tie in with the musical, TBPAC and the Florida Orchestra plan to continue their co-productions of opera with a mounting of _ you guessed it _ La Boheme.

Why is this opera, written in 1896, so much with us today?

For one thing, it's surely the world's most romantic opera (used in the movie Moonstruck), depicting the doomed love affair of Rodolfo and Mimi with consummate melody.

La Boheme is also a landmark of operatic realism, with its portrayal of starving poets, painters and slackers. As Rent so deftly demonstrates, it is not much of a stretch to transplant Puccini's bohemians from the Parisian Left Bank of the 1830s to the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the 1990s.

Along with Rent, the modern-day appeal of Puccini's opera is best captured in a Baz Luhrmann-directed film of La Boheme, which featured youthful, decidedly non-operatic singers in an Australian production.

Here's this week's lineup of La Boheme:

The New York City Opera tour plays at 8 p.m. Saturday at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. Tickets are $28.50-$45. Call 791-7400. On Sunday, there are performances at 2 and 8 p.m. at Sarasota's Van Wezel Hall. Tickets are $32-$36. Call (941) 953-3368 or (800) 826-9303.

Luigi Comencini's production of La Boheme airs at 7 p.m. Saturday on Bravo.

There's one more performance of the opera by Sarasota Opera at 8 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $15-$55. Call (941) 366-8450.

And on Live from Lincoln Center at 8 p.m. Wednesday on WEDU-Ch. 3, the New York City Opera production of La Boheme will be broadcast from the New York State Theatre, with a simulcast on WUSF-FM 89.7.

MORE MUSIC _ Verdi's Il Trovatore concludes the season for Orlando Opera with performances at 8 tonight, 2 on Sunday afternoon and 7:30 Tuesday night at Carr Performing Arts Centre in Orlando. Tickets are $20-$50. Call (800) 336-7372. ... Teenage cellist Yves Dharamraj (a soloist with the Florida Orchestra in April) gives a recital with pianist Noreen Polera at 8 tonight at the Music Recital Hall on the Tampa campus of the University of South Florida. Tickets are $2 and $3. Call 974-2323. ... Deidre Reigel leads the Summit Orchestra and Singers in show tunes and opera arias at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Clearwater. Tickets are $5-$10. Call 531-7704.

FEST _ The Bending Minds With Spoons Festival continues with a tripleheader of solo shows by Josephine Dorado (Pumped Up and Plentiful Grabbable Mounds), Karla Hartley (Sex, Love and Life's Other Graces) and Noreen Maier (Poor Pappa) at 8 tonight and 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Off Center Theater of Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. Also as part of the festival, Joan Strauman winds up her trilogy of one-woman shows with Dreams, Hats and Gorky at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Off Center. Tickets are $10 and $13. Call 229-7827.

DANCE _ Artistic director Robert de Warren's treatment of Bolero is on a program by Sarasota Ballet at 2 and 8 p.m. today at the FSU (Asolo) Center for the Performing Arts. Also to be performed are My Life by Greg Neuman, Four World Songs by Kathryn Posin and Hommage a Chopin by Pavel Fomin. There are five matinees and four evening performances through Tuesday. Tickets are $8-$40. Call (941) 359-0771.