La Bohème, Opera Holland Park, London
Aldeburgh Festival, Snape Maltings, Suffolk
A Midsummer Night's Dream, Britten Theatre, London

Opera Holland Park's passionate 'Bohème' dares to be unsentimental, unfussy and sincere

Simply and effectively staged by Elaine Kidd, Opera Holland Park's La Bohème puts right what went wrong in Jonathan Miller's lavish English National Opera staging.

Both are set in the Great Depression: a tawdry era of taupe and grey, tired overcoats, empty wallets and hungry eyes. But where Miller took Rodolfo's remark about buying Mimi a coral necklace "when his rich uncle dies" as an indication that the young writer is merely playing at being Bohemian, Kidd has Aldo Di Toro deliver it with spitting irony. There is no rich uncle here, no hope of unearned wealth. Just the hand-to-mouth earnings of a poet, playwright and journalist whose pride, self-doubt and jealousy are the engine of an intractably unhappy affair.

Swift and sometimes brutal, save for an extravagantly slow and overtly sexual "Quando me'*vo", Robert Dean's conducting ensures that the pace never flags. Two kisses seal Acts I and II. The first, between Aldo Di Toro's Rodolfo and Linda Richardson's Mimi, is held as the vast canvas in the young artist's garret is ripped down to reveal the front of Café Momus. The second, a Doisneau-esque clinch between Grant Doyle's wry Marcello and Hye-Youn Lee's kittenish Musetta, brings down the lights for the interval. It's a neat device and underlines the difference between the two couples, setting the scene for the Act III quartet. For all their bickering, Marcello and Musetta have an intimacy and ease that evades Rodolfo and Mimi. Tall and awkward, Richardson's seamstress is unable to conceal her abject loneliness with whimsy, while Di Toro's Rodolfo is a ball of frustration.

Tim Mirfin's self-mocking Colline, and Njabulo Madlala's expansive Schaunard are warmly drawn, while Eric Roberts doubles as the baffled Benoit and duped Alcindoro. Cleverly designed by Colin Richmond, and sung passionately by the cast and chorus, this is an unsentimental, unfussy and sincere Bohème.

From Haydn to Helmut Lachenmann, the final 36 hours of this year's Aldeburgh Festival seduced and provoked the ear. Nicholas Daniel and Charles Owen's palindromic recital of music for oboe and piano began unsteadily with an unflattering transcription of Bach's Sonata in A major (BWV 1032) and closed in the happier tessitura of the E-flat Sonata (BWV 1031).

Both performers sounded more fluent in Schumann's poignant, questing Three Romances. Howard Ferguson's arrangements of three of Schumann's Studies and Sketches had a delicate, moonlit quality, while Birtwistle's An Interrupted Endless Melody suspended the oboe's angry elegy over dustily percussive broken chords. Two elliptical works for unaccompanied oboe by Elliott Carter (Inner Song and HBHH) framed Pavel Haas's declamatory Suite for Oboe and Piano: a Janácekian ululation of outrage played with ferocious lyricism.

Tenor Robin Tritschler was the decisive star of the third of the festival's concerts of Britten's Song Cycles. Accompanied by Malcolm Martineau, his fresh, flexible sound and thoughtful characterisation made the sour vicar, humble choirmaster, wondering baby and handcuffed criminal of Britten's Thomas Hardy settings, Winter Words, spring to life. Masaaki Suzuki's performance of the St Matthew Passion with the Britten-Pears Baroque Orchestra was blessed with a sublime flute obbligato from Anne Pustlauk, perceptive and stylish leading from violinist Johannes Pramsholer and a meticulously controlled Christus from Jonathan Sells, though Suzuki's tempi vacillated from sluggish ("Kommt, ihr Töchter") to breakneck ("O Mensch, bewein' dein' Sünde gross") and the final refrain of "Ruhe sanfte, sanfte ruh!" was delivered, bizarrely, fortissimo.

Under festival director Pierre-Laurent Aimard, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra's unforced, vibrant tone and incisive, almost Mannerist articulation bloomed in Haydn's Farewell Symphony and Beethoven's Emperor Concerto. Though the violas were consistently sharp, there was fabulous horn playing and excellent work from the double basses, oboe, clarinet and flutes. Few orchestras could move as seamlessly from the generous glow of Haydn and Beethoven to the subdued, crystalline polyphony of Stockhausen's Kontra-Punkte. But few pianists, having played the Emperor Concerto, would sit down 30 minutes later and play Schumann's Gesänge der Frühe.

Programmed with the UK premiere of Helmut Lachenmann's 25-minute cantata ... Got Lost ... (performed by Sarah Leonard and Rolf Hind) and Stockhausen's Gesang der Jünglinge, it was the first of three pieces to explore the breaking-down of language. The difference, of course, is that Stockhausen's electronic bloops and sampled chants and Lachenmann's polylinguistic, obscurantist conceit of fractured vowels and choked consonants are deliberate explosions. Schumann's was the product of a mind in the misery of dementia: a series of aubades that grasp at lucidity and fumble – knotted, frustrated, lost.

A darkened stage, a dozen imps in distressed doublets, a faint mist, a tang of sexual tension, a drowsy glissando and a heavy midsummer moon. Lit by Mark Doubleday and conducted by Michael Rosewell, Ian Judge's exquisite production of A Midsummer Night's Dream for the Royal College of Music was an example of just how enchanting less-is-more can be. No designer was credited. Indeed everything was done with lights, punked-up Elizabethan costumes, a bicycle, a dog, and the movements of a young and enthusiastic cast. If the mortals were a little rough-hewn, Alistair Digges made a delightful Flute/Thisbe and Anna Huntley a touching Hermia. As Oberon, Christopher Lowrey delivered a beguiling "On this bank", while Colette Boushell brightly rat-a-tat-tatted Titania's coloratura. The ensemble work was excellent and Trinity Boys Choir lively and sweet of voice.

I don't know what happens to college productions after their brief end-of-term runs but, like Jo Davies's Cunning Little Vixen and Martin Lloyd-Evans's The King Goes Forth to France, Judge's Dream should be seen again.

'La Bohème' (0845 230 9769) to 15 Aug

Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl

First look at Oscar winner as transgender artistfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
News
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
people
News
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Oscars
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
music
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
film
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
architecture
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower