La Bohéme

Music – Giacomo Puccini

Libretto – Giacosa & Illica after Henry Murger’s Scénes de la vie de Bohme

Conductor: Andris Nelsons

The Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House

Director: John Copley

Designer: Julia Trevelyan Oman

Cast: Mimi – Hibla Gerzmaya; Rodolfo: Teodor Ilincai; Marcello: Gabriele Viviani;

Musetta: Inna Dukach; Schaunard: Jacques Imbrailo; Colline: Kostas Smoriginas;

Benoit: Jeremy White; Alcindoro: Donald Maxwell

I can’t think of any opera as perfect as La Bohéme. Puccini premiered in 1896, twelve years after his first, youthful Le Villi and preceded it by Edgar and Manon Lescaut, after all of which he had plenty of know how about his work – no wonder he got La Bohéme one hundred percent right!

Act I runs under one hour – a time span during which impoverished boy Rodolfo, a writer (Teodor Ilincai) meets impoverished girl, Mimi, a seamstress (Hibla Gerzmaya).

They fall in love, they go out for dinner with friends, they have as much fun as they will be allowed to have for the rest of the opera. Time passes, they split up. Winter freezes everything except their love. They decide they will reunite until spring comes, at which time… who knows…

That is Act I, during which we have met Marcello, painter (Gabriele Viviani); Schaunard, musician (Jacques Imbrailo); Colline, philosopher(Kostas Smoriginas); and Musetta, part time singer, full time flirt (Inna Dukach).

A perfect opera calls for a perfect cast, and the Royal Opera House’s 2009 cast is just about that, starting with their vocal and dramatic youthfulness, that is except of course for Benoit, their landlord (Jeremy White), and Alcindoro, Musetta’s paramour du jour (Donald Maxwell) both excellent in their foolish-old-men roles.

Hibla Gerzmaya’s Mimi is a joy to look at and to listen to. She inhabits her role with a wonderful mix of charm, vulnerability, and courage. And she can sing the role flawlessly: her Mi chiamano Mimi would cause any full-blooded poet to fall head over heels in love with her. In Act II, her Donde lieta usci is a lesson in bringing Giacosa & Illica’s words to life in seamless union with Puccini’s music.

Teodor Ilincai’s Rodolfo is handsome, forthright, dramatically honest, and vocally unimpeachable. He is as good a Rodolfo as I have heard, and he can both sing full out and reign his ample voice back to a whisper when needed.

The other four bohemians: Gabriele Viviani, Jacques Imbrailo, Kostas Smoriginas and Inna Dukach are top of the line each in his or her own right, with the spunky Inna Dukach vocally impressive and picture pretty.

Director John Copley and Designer Julia Trevelyan Oman deliver a dramatically and visually superb production utterly faithful to Puccini’s original intentions as to time and place, and one in which not one single human or physical element is out of place.

Andris Nelsons leads the Royal Opera House orchestra and chorus and his cast of principals with a balanced mix of flexibility and spontaneity, obtaining as a result a performance infused with joy and sensitivity.

This DVD is part of the Royal Opera Collection (  OA1337BD / OABD7291BD).    

Indeed, a perfect La Bohéme! Rafael de Acha     ALL ABOUT THE ARTS