La Bohème, Theatre Royal, Glasgow

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The one thing Scottish Opera did not need was a new production of La Bohème. The company is strapped for cash, its very existence threatened, and it possessed among its assets a magnificent version of the opera by Elijah Moshinsky.

The one thing Scottish Opera did not need was a new production of La Bohème. The company is strapped for cash, its very existence threatened, and it possessed among its assets a magnificent version of the opera by Elijah Moshinsky.

What's more, its last two new productions, Gluck's Orfeo and Mozart's Magic Flute, have been turkeys. Of course, in the midst of this came its distinguished Wagner Ring, produced by Tim Ashbury and winner of the South Bank Award. But, sure as hell, it did not need another turkey.

It could have offered a rare masterpiece such as Korngold's Die Tote Stadt, or perhaps flown the Scottish flag with MacCunn's Jeanie Deans, another fine work. But no, it opted to create a new rendering of Puccini's warhorse, grist to the mill of every catchpenny popular caravanserai.

Whatever you think of Stewart Laing's new take on the opera - and it was certainly novel, imaginative, alternative, deconstructive - it will clearly not guarantee the survival of this beleaguered firm. Glasgow audiences will hate it, and it will never be revived. It is, you could say, a rejection and a send-up of everything we always thought about La Bohème. Instead of a picturesque garret overlooking the roofs of Paris, we see a half-deserted, white-walled office full of computers, two of them projecting their flickering images on to the back wall. As far as one could discern, the setting was in a modern New York (the Williamsburg neighbourhood, I am reliably informed), but this appeared only on electronic screens of different sizes. Automobiles zoomed about and reversed, and when Rodolfo threw his play on the fire in Act I, the tall buildings on the screen caught fire alarmingly in a reprise of September 11. Even the famous contemporary art galleries of Williamsburg were glimpsed in Act II, where the Café Momus turned into an arty-farty private view.

Is La Bohème a sentimental and picturesque piece? Well, yes it is, but this production tried to tell us that it had something to say to the modern world. I doubt it. And unfortunately, directors who wish to make strong points usually forget to actually direct, with the result that the cast mainly mooch about with their hands in their pockets. This depressing habit, made easy by the slacks and jeans that were the prevailing dress code, reliably eliminated any real dramatic tension.

Pity, that, because the cast were able and intelligent. Best of all was Roderick Williams as Marcello - powerful, expressive, his tone full of eager colour. His reprise of Musetta's waltz song rang true, after the excellent Musetta (Rebecca von Lipinski) had brought the first emotional frisson of the evening. The protagonists, Peter Auty as Rodolfo and Rachel Hynes as Mimi, did their best in trying circumstances. Hynes's voice really is dramatic, rather than an instrument of lyric charm, but she flashed her eyes and postured in an attempt to look seductive. But the computers and television screens put paid to that.

Indeed, the production seemed to work against the honest endeavours of the singers. Colline (Alessandro Guerzoni) bade farewell to his coat (in this case, a large rolled-up drawing of a coat) with massive force, but the voice fell apart into nervous vibrato.

If you closed your eyes, you noticed the poise and fluency of the delivery of the conductor, Richard Farnes. Puccini's swellings of the heart, his catchings of breath and swaggering gestures, came billowing up from the pit. In the end, even the videos of modern America gained a little poignancy; the image of skyscrapers that obscured the stage at the very end, after Mimi's death, placed the action in a lonely contemporary world.

But is this another turkey? It may be. Save Scottish Opera, somebody. It's evidently not too bothered about saving itself.

To 26 June (0141-332 9000)

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