La Boheme, Royal Opera House, London
Writer and broadcaster Edward Seckerson is Chief Classical Music and Opera Critic for The Independent. He wrote and presented the long-running BBC Radio 3 series Stage & Screen, in which he interviewed many of the most prominent writers and stars of musical theatre. He appears regularly on BBC Radio 3 and 4. On television, he has commentated a number of times at the Cardiff Singer of the World competition. He has published books on Mahler and the conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, and has been on Gramophone Magazine's review panel for many years. Edward presented the 2007 series of the Radio 4 music quiz Counterpoint. He has interviewed everyone from Leonard Bernstein to Liza Minelli; from Paul McCartney to Pavarotti: from Julie Andrews to Jessye Norman.
Wednesday 02 May 2012
Not just another revival of
a venerable old staging but its 25th showing in the 50th year of director John
Copley's work at the Royal Opera House. They served up a cake and a vintage
cast for the occasion - and the snow fell once more on the Latin Quarter
swelling the Christmas Eve crowds at Cafe Momus.
Julia Trevelyan Oman’s grandly designed Boheme is what used to pass for social realism at the opera. It is, in every sense, a blast - from the past - 1974, to be precise; and so well made that no one is thinking of retirement just yet. It’s charming, it works. And with Semyon Bychkov in the pit radiating enjoyment and animation and more importantly nursing the very particular tempo-rubato aspects of Puccini’s score it felt as spontaneous as it was heartening. And Italianate, too.
Casting brought house debuts and a couple of old hands. Nuccia Focile’s Musetta slipped very cosily into the broad style of the production distracting us from the self-evident vocal wear and tear with “funny business” that could be read from the back of the amphitheatre. The luxury of Donald Maxwell as her aging toy-boy Alcindoro in the Momus scene meant that all her attempts at upstaging would be well-met downstage.
Meanwhile back at the garrett, Fabio Capitanucci’s Marcello was the genuine article - a mellifluous Italian baritone - growing in confidence towards his big reprise of the waltz song in the Momus scene and well matched physically and vocally with his fellow Bohemians: Matthew Rose’s sonorous Colline and Thomas Oliemans‘ Schaunard who played the moment of Mimi’s death with a perception that will read beautifully in cinema relays on the 17 May.
Carmen Giannattasio (Mimi) was nervous on her entrance (intonation slightly compromised) and overwhelmed at her curtain call. But whilst not perhaps a natural Mimi voice she looked perfect, her tiny frame shaken by big notes of big conviction and phrasing in the heart-rending third act that truly prepared us dramatically for a genuinely touching death-bed scene.
Her Rudolfo was one of the big stars of the moment - Joseph Calleja - and didn’t it show. Everything about his sound and delivery is personal - the openness, the portamenti, the gentle flutter of vibrato, the “covered” pianissimo spun to glorious effect at the close of “Che gelida manina”. You know it’s special, you know you are in the presence of a little bit of operatic history.
Arts & Ents blogs
Dennis Hopper's lost sixties photo album found
Top Gear makes Saudis look liberal, Kirsty Wark tells Independent Bath Literature Festival
Ruin Lust at Tate Britain, art review
Liam Neeson turned down James Bond role because late wife Natasha Richardson said she wouldn't marry him if he took it
Jenny Collier row: Comedy promoter apologises after dropping female comic 'because venue did not want too many women on the bill'
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
If you're horrified by a flame-roasted dog, you should be shocked at a hog roast
Poor 'live like animals' says Boris's privately educated sister after going on 'poverty safari'
Exclusive: Impact of immigrants on British workers ‘negligible’
Vince Cable: Teachers 'know absolutely nothing' about the world of work
Ukraine crisis: Russia pledges to 'retaliate against sanctions' as Ukrainian president says Crimea vote will not be recognised
- 1 International Women's Day 2014: The shocking statistics that show why it is still so important
- 2 Australian man Rod Sommerville reacts to bite from deadly snake by reaching for cold beer
- 3 Teacher shows sex tape featuring herself to pupils during class by mistake
- 4 Singapore sting: Sky-high prices are pushing locals to the edge of affordability
- 5 Exclusive: UK banks in row over Yulia Tymoshenko 'millions'