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La Boheme – English National Opera at The London Coliseum

Writer: Giacomo Puccini

Translator: Amanda Holden

Director: Jonathan Miller

Conductor: Stephen Lord

Reviewer: Lauren Rare

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★★½

Once again Jonathan Miller has excelled himself with this superb production of La Boheme at the English National Opera.

The acting of the cast was extremely strong and made each character seem plausible. The lead roles were especially good, but minor characters such as the children in the street, Beniot the unfortunate landlord and Alcindoro the spurned sugar-daddy also delivered notable performances. Even the woman standing on the street corner who delivers a message for Mimi brought life and depth to an otherwise easily overlooked part.

The highly ingenious design of the set, masterminded by Isabella Bywater, meant that it was very versatile and transformed before our eyes from the artisan’s garret, to the Parisian cafe and the seedy backstreets, all smoothly and efficiently executed.

Jean Kalman’s lighting, in keeping with the muted colour pallet of the production, was so dark that at times the characters merged too much into the austere and chilly background. The exception to this was in the final scene when one light was reflecting into the audience; managing to half –blind those seated in the stalls. However, the dawn sequences and the moonlight were effectively managed and gave an eerie glow the unfolding drama.

The rich sound of Gwyn Hughes Jones filled the Coliseum during his performance as Rodolfo and his considerable vocal talents were evident throughout. His tender relationship with Mimi was heart-warming, but with less of the melodrama than is sometimes brought to this role. There was, however, real chemistry between them his tender treatment of her was touching.

The ENO stage debut of Elizabeth Llewellyn as the ill-fated Mimi was a triumph. She effortlessly reached soaring top notes whist maintaining a sweetness and fragility befitting her character. Her duets with Rodolfo demonstrated how their choices complimented each other beautifully.

Mairead Buicke, as Musetta, brought verve and fire to her role, although seemingly dressed by her worst enemy; her costume in the cafe scene was particularly unflattering. The contrast between the two female leads was marked; Llewellyn’s silver countered by Buicke’s steel.

The conductor, Stephen Lord, led the orchestra in a confident manner, although sometimes he was rather too enthusiastic and on several occasions the voices of the singers were difficult to hear. The strings section was strong and the harpist is to be particularly commended.

In all this was a fantastic production and the rapturous applause and the many bows taken at the end, were thoroughly deserved.

Photo: Robert Workman – Runs until the 27th January 211

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