Royal Opera House: La Bohème
New Bohème at the ROH. I heard everyone ranting “I liked more the old production”. Same old thing about conservatives complaining about any change. Like when facebook or twitter change something in their interfaces: people complain during two weeks about how the old UI was better and the new one is crap but after some time they love it and cannot go back to the old one and of course, are going to complain again with any future change to it. As it was my first Bohème (and only the second one in my entire life!) I didn’t have any bias and liked it.
With a realistic approach to La Bohème first and fourth act are always tricky to set: if you make a big attic it is not going to be credible as the apartment of two bohemians struggling without money. But if you make it small it feels like too empty and claustrophobic, and this drama is not about that. Richard Jones took the small set approach and those were the acts that didn’t worked well. They looked like without soul. On the other hand second act setting on the tumultuous Paris was really convincing and the 3rd one with an empty but big space and master use of the scenic space succeed in expressing loneliness. Transitions between acts, open to the audience did not work well, as well as the 2nd act opening lost all the magic and surprise about the bustle.
Nicole Car was a good Mimì, convincing and with a very good singing line. Her performance got better as the opera advanced. Michael Fabiano was a correct Rodolfo, maybe a little bit cold and lacking of passion at some moments.
Joyce El-Khoury as Musseta stole the 2nd act as expected. I missed Nadine Sierra who dropped from the announced cast.
And Mariusz Kwiecień was terrific as Marcello. Probably the most experienced in the cast and really convincing.
One of the biggest problems of La Bohème is that its 3 great-hits come together in a row: Che gelida manina, Sì, mi chiamano Mimi and O soave fanciulla. After that the sing to the gallery is over and the drama starts. Therefore a good balance between good singing and good drama is needed to make it a good performance. I think it was achieved on this production and I was close to end up with tears in my eyes, that is always a very good sign.