Jagaul.com Arts Entertainments La Bohème review – Royal Opera delivers subtly sensitive and powerful Puccini | Theatre | Entertainment

La Bohème review – Royal Opera delivers subtly sensitive and powerful Puccini | Theatre | Entertainment

So many operas end in the tragic death of a soprano, but the conclusion of Puccini’s La Bohème never fails to bring tears to my eyes.

This is already the fifth revival of Richard Jones’ 2017 production of this opera and Keri-Lynn Wilson’s superbly sensitive conducting of the Covent Garden Orchestra brilliantly brings out the power of Puccini’s music.

The plot is simple: boy meets sick girl, they fall in love, girl dies, but the strong emotions of the story are brought out very effectively with the reckless joy of the first half giving way to despair as hopelessness sets in.

Rodolfo (Albanian tenor Saimir Pirgu) is a poet, sharing an attic with his artistic friends Marcello (Mikhail Timoshenko), Colline (Alexander Köpeczi) and Schaunard (Hansung Yoo). The last three head off to Cafe Momus, leaving Rodolfo to finish some work quickly when Mimi (Ruzan Mantashyan) knocks at the door asking for a light for her candle which has blown out in the wind.

They quickly fall in love, and the rest of the first half is pure joy, enhanced by the outrageous behaviour of Marcello’s girlfriend Musetta (Lauren Fagan). Covent Garden audiences last saw Fagan as Gretel in the Christmas production Hansel and Gretel, but Musetta’s knickers-removing antics at the Cafe Momus are gloriously accomplished and strikingly more adult.

The pace of the opera is greatly helped by Stewart Laing’s set design which allow a remarkably fast switch from the artists’ attack to a Parisian Boulevard and then to the interior of Cafe Momus. The speed at which everything rolls into place gets rid of the need for an interval between the first and second acts which enables the momentum of the show to continue uninterrupted.

All of the leading parts are well sung, with Ruzan Mantashyan (Mimi) and Lauren Fagan particularly excellent. However, the voices of the four artist room-mates were sometimes too individual to go well together. Saimir Pirgu in particular had an impressively strong voice, but his almost unrelenting high volume was often inappropriate. By contrast, Ruzan Mantashyan’s final scene was a beautiful example of how to sing softly but with enough power to fill the huge Opera House.

RATING: 4 stars

La Bohème at the Royal Opera House, London, until 16 February. For further information: roh.org.uk or 020 7304 4000.

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