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.
'At times I thought he was me'film
Review: One Direction, Fourmusic
Review: The World of Ice and Firebooks
Film More romcom than S&M
Review: The Imitation Gamefilm
Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars
TVNetflix gets cryptic
TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth
Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 2 Tower Bridge glass walkway 'smashed' by night-time visitor dropping bottle of beer
- 3 Anti-gay hate preacher accidentally tweets 4,000 followers cartoon clip of him 'confessing' to be a 'homosexual sodomite'
- 4 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 5 Grayson Perry: London needs affordable housing because 'rich people don't create culture'
Christmas 2014: The three most intriguing celebrity panto appearances
Lee Evans announces his retirement from comedy on The Jonathan Ross Show
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars
Iggy Azalea responds to Eminem rape lyrics: 'I'm bored of old men threatening young women'
Beyonce '7/11' music video: Star bounces on bed and films daughter Blue Ivy in lo-fi homage to viral video
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services
Myleene Klass: Ed Miliband 'strikes back' by comparing UK's need for Labour's mansion tax to Hear'Say track