La Bohÿme, Glyndebourne on Tour, Touring

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A cold snap descended on the South Downs for the first night of Glyndebourne on Tour's
La Bohème, a revival of David McVicar's 2000 touring production.

A cold snap descended on the South Downs for the first night of Glyndebourne on Tour's La Bohème, a revival of David McVicar's 2000 touring production. Easy, then, to empathise with Peter Auty's Rodolfo, the writer of passionate dramas who rips up Acts I to IV of his masterpiece to feed a chilly tinpot brazier, swapping banter with Marcello (the wonderful William Dazeley, standing in), Grant Doyle's zippy Schaunard and Paolo Battaglia's Colline, whose ode to an ancient overcoat before he pawns it to pay for a doctor for Mimi is one of the composer's noble bonuses.

"House-painter", jibes Majella Cullagh's spiky Musetta when she and Marcello have their next bust-up; the richness of any McVicar production lies in the way small detail informs the big picture. Twice or thrice here a nifty idea fails, a rear vignette folds like a squib, some witty wheeze isn't followed through - unusual for McVicar. But the way he gradually closes the action down, act by act, even amid the Café Momus hubbub, so that much of this is lucidly played front of stage, not only suits touring; it means each fine detail registers.

Michael Vale's set works well for the garret scene and montaged frontage for Marcello's studio, plus a grim tenement out of Bicycle Thieves or The Godfather. What makes La Bohème such a deserved audience-winner - melodies apart - is that they're all losers: the small boy who can't have a toy soldier; the toyseller Parpignol (Peter Haydn Ferris), who lures the kids and is arrested by British cops (for what?); and the hapless sugar-daddy Alcindoro (Richard Mosley-Evans), who forks out for all the drinks. One of this uncloying staging's hilarious moments comes when Cullagh's scarlet-booted Musetta screeches in prima-donna feigned agony and is clumsily debooted by Alcindoro. All matching the music, of course.

Some nice café cavortings and some wonderful children apart, the focus is on Auty's Rodolfo and Michelle Canniccioni's Mimi. Already seen at British Youth Opera and Scottish Opera, Auty is on his third Rodolfo and will shortly sing it for ENO. He's a joy. McVicar has emphasised the antihero, which suits. The odd justified heartwrenching yelp apart, Auty shouts nothing; even his final realisation is played down; perhaps just too far. If you want Pavarotti, or a dishy beau, forget it. This Bohème is never overegged. You might say it's almost less melodramatic, more human.

Canniccioni sang Micaela in this year's Glyndebourne Carmen. She's a thinking singer; she moves beautifully; the relatively fast-vibratoed voice doesn't quite melt the snows in the way her acting does - especially her hovering Act III and Caravaggio corpse-like last act - but it's a lovely one, with its own glow and allure, on the way to great things. So, too, the conductor, Edward Gardner, meticulously detailed and shrewdly drama-focused, even if a few of Puccini's lingering lines sounded a fraction subfusc.

Touring to 11 December ( www.glyndebourne.com)

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