Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Librettist: Giusepe Giacosa and Luigi Illica
Original texts: Henry Murger
Director: Annabel Arden
Conductor: Simon Phillippo
Reviewer: Ann Bawtree
The Public Reviews Rating:
The ever popular opera La Boheme may be one of the very shortest in the history of the art but is undeniably not short on emotion. The curtain, bearing a sketched outline of the rooftops of Paris, rises on the chilly garret occupied by a group of 19th century hippies; Marcello, a painter (David Kempster), Rodolpho, a poet (Alex Vicens), Colline, a philosopher (Piotr Lempa) and Schaunard, a musician (Daniel Grice). They are obviously not doing very well financially but seem to be having a jolly time. All but Rodolpho leave for an evening at the cafe when a knock at the door reveals Mimi (Giselle Allen) in search of a light for her extinguished candle. In this production we have seen her blow out her candle just before knocking, so perhaps she is not such an innocent but just a little bit of a schemer, maybe the “lost” key was another of her ploys too.
These five plus Musetta, Marcello’s on/off lover (Kate Valentine) are almost all that is needed to tell the story. The huge voices of these internationally known singers resound around the vast spaces of The Mayflower and it is hard for some to be persuaded that they are unamplified.
Puccini uses the splendid voices of the Welsh National Chorus very little. The only crowd scene is set in the Café Momus where the main characters and their relationships are developed. Stephen Brimson Lewis has designed an attractive, lively place; part café, part street scene. Gleaming mirrors and revolving glass doors enclose a table full of riotous jollity. Children crowd around a toy-seller, soldiers march past to a military band and two of the largest gentlemen of the chorus were chosen to play cross-dressed. Musetta arrives with her latest conquest and manages to trick him into paying everyone’s bill.
But happiness is short-lived and the final act brings the tale to its tragic conclusion. Why do audiences keep filling the theatres to be left so sad? Everyone knows that Mimi is going to die and that Rodolpho is going to go mad with grief. It is because the music is so emotive and the characters so identifiable. So hankies away and off to look out for the next perfomance.
Runs until 3rd November at The Mayflower,Southampton, then touring.
Tags: Alex Vicens, Annabel Arden, Daniel Grice, David Kempster, Giacomo Puccini, Giselle Allen, Giusepe Giacosa, Henry Murger, Kate Valentine, La Boheme, Luigi Illica, Opera, Piotr Lempa, Simon Phillippo, Southampton, Stephen Brimson Lewis, The Mayflower, Welsh National Opera