Great theatrical moments: Christopher Robson's astonishing performance as Mad Tom in Lear, Ann Murray's descent into grief at the heart of Ariodante, the townsfolk thirsting for the blood of Peter Grimes as produced by Tim Albery. . . all courtesy of English National Opera.

Lear and Ariodante are long gone (revivals please), but there are four performances left of Peter Grimes (essential viewing for anyone remotely interested in theatre). Next up is La boheme.

When the production first appeared, it was played without a break in order to concentrate the piece. This time, the management insisted on an interval, due to the weakness of bladders and bar-profits. No such weakness onstage. Producer Steven Pimlott and his designer Tobias Hoheisel have dispensed with the overly-romantic notions of the artists' garret and created an appropriately chilly loft which Hugh Vanstone's sculptural lighting turns into both interior and exterior.

There is a real sense of space and energy, especially in the Act Two crowd scene and Musetta's striptease taunting of Marcello (excellent Jason Howard, above right), which builds and builds until their ecstatic table-top clinch as the orchestra climaxes beneath them. Even when the acting from the lovers is below par, Pimlott's direction is so detailed and assured that the conviction and quality of their singing (particularly John Hudson's Rodolfo above left) sees them through. Go see.

In repertory at the Coliseum until 1 Jul. Box office: 071-836 3161

(Photograph omitted)

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