La Boheme, Old Vic Tunnels, South London
Friday 10 February 2012
I’ve reviewed opera in some unlikely places –
a telephone box, the stairways of a derelict town hall, the kitchen department
of Wembley IKEA – but the labyrinth of tunnels under Waterloo made the
unlikeliest venue yet.
For Silent Opera’s La boheme, director Daisy Evans and her team wanted the sound of a full orchestra, and drew inspiration from the iPod. Hence we got a pre-recorded track of chorus and orchestra, to which we would listen on wireless headphones while live singers performed around us. This would ‘re-energise Puccini’s warhorse, and bring it headlong into our hi-tech world.’
Marcello would be a tattoo artist, Rodolfo a comic-book writer, Colline an animal-rights campaigner, Schaunard a pick-pocket, and Mimi a young fashion graduate, ‘riddled with self-doubt and struggling with eating disorders’. Given that TB is on the rise among the homeless, one wondered if that sensitive bit of contemporary colour was needed, Amy Winehouse notwithstanding.
And sure enough, Amy got name-checked in the first few minutes, as the Bohemians larked about in their beanbag-strewn garret; this was a Sixties environment, but the trains rumbling overhead suggested a wartime air-raid shelter. The men sang with lusty vigour and ad-libbed when necessary (‘You’re sitting on my bean-bag’ – addressed to an audience member who had got in the way – being melodiously woven in). Mimi (no programme, so no names) made a graceful appearance and sang with silvery charm, but Rodolfo, though good in the low register, suffered pitifully with his high notes, and so therefore did we. Musetta and her lover, on the other hand, made an effectively forceful duo. Musically the experience was perfectly decent, with live and pre-recorded sound melding nicely. But as the army of extras herded us from tunnel to tunnel, enacting noisy little sub-dramas of their own, the production kept dissipating its own focus. This didn’t seem to bother the audience, which was predominantly young, smart, educated, and in party-mode; Mimi’s death didn’t move them, maybe in part because self-doubt, plus a touch of anorexia, doesn’t have the doom-laden resonance of jolly old TB.
So was La boheme ‘energized’? Hardly. And to be honest, we didn’t need those trendy headphones: the orchestra could just as effectively have been piped in through old-fashioned speakers. But that wouldn’t have been nearly so cool.
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Three-year-old ultra-Orthodox Jewish children told 'the non-Jews' are 'evil' in worksheet produced by London school
- 2 Moscow voted the world's unfriendliest city
- 3 The excuses your boss is most likely to believe when you call in sick
- 4 I'm pansexual – here are the five biggest misconceptions about my sexuality
- 5 More than 11,000 Icelanders offer to house Syrian refugees to help European crisis
The real reason Eddie Redmayne was cast as a trans woman in The Danish Girl
JK Rowling announces Harry Potter's son is starting at Hogwarts
Idris Elba is ‘too street’ to play 007, says James Bond author
Loose Women poll asking if rape is 'ever a woman's fault' sparks backlash
Akram Khan: Choreographer says dance is 'as important as maths and being a doctor'
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don’t change Europe’s attitude to refugees, what will?
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be