Opera Columbus' treatment of the Puccini masterwork "La Boheme" is not the first update of that piece of operatic literature – you may recall a little Broadway play called "Rent" – but setting the piece in post-Katrina New Orleans was central to the production.

Opera Columbus' treatment of the Puccini masterwork "La Boheme" is not the first update of that piece of operatic literature – you may recall a little Broadway play called "Rent" – but setting the piece in post-Katrina New Orleans was central to the production.

"We're not always going to update, but if serves the purpose of storytelling in a way that comes across as relatable, we're going to do it," Opera Columbus Artist Director Peggy Kriha Dye said.

The setting was a concept of director Stephanie Havey, Dye said, and it capitalizes on several aspects of the original setting, which features a group of young starving artists in Paris' Latin Quarter.

First, New Orleans' French Quarter retains some of the "French flair," Dye said. But the more important relation was the nature of the characters themselves.

"After Katrina, there was a group of artists who moved there and chose this lifestyle of living off of their art and their music," she said. "The bohemians in La Boheme are the kind of people you would find in New Orleans today."

Dye was quick to add the production is not about Katrina, but about a relatable modern setting for the story.

"It's a timeless story," Talya Lieberman, who sings Musetta in the Opera Columbus production, said. "It really fits in this new context."

"At its core, the story is about the idealism of youth. It's also about the life of the struggling artist, asking the question of what are we willing to sacrifice in order to pursue art."

The characters, Lieberman said, are "purposefully counterculture."

From a singer's standpoint, Lieberman said, this kind of treatment is a balancing act.

"Yes, the setting is changed and the costumes and set reflect that, but the music, the singing, the text, have been sung for years," she said. "That's what we do as 'classical' musicians, is reinterpret a piece. These works have survived, and we need to constantly be finding out why."