Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Nabucco in Novi Sad

After the horrors of Jagoš Marković’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro in Belgrade, I was apprehensive lest Nabucco in Serbia’s second city of Novi Sad on 27th October would be transplanted from 6th century BC Babylon to post-Saddam Hussein Tikrit or some bombed-out kibbutz in Beersheba.

La Bohème in San Francisco

First Toronto, then Houston and now San Francisco, the third stop of a new production of Puccini's La bohème by Canadian born, British nurtured theater director John Caird.

Radvanovsky Sings Recital in Los Angeles

Every once in a while Los Angeles Opera presents an important recital in the three thousand seat Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

L’elisir d’amore, Royal Opera

This third revival of Laurent Pelly’s production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore needed a bit of a pep up to get moving but once it had been given a shot of ‘medicinal’ tincture things spiced up nicely.

Samling Showcase, Wigmore Hall

Founded in 1996, Samling describes itself as a charity which ‘inspires musical excellence in young people’.

La cenerentola in San Francisco

The good news is that you don’t have to go all the way to Pesaro for great Rossini.

Rameau: Maître à danser — William Christie, Barbican London

Maître à danser: William Christie and Les Arts Florissants at the Barbican, London, presented a defining moment in Rameau performance practice, choreographed with a team of dancers.

Le Nozze di Figaro — or Sex on the Beach?

The most memorable thing (and definitely not in a good way) about this performance of Le Nozze di Figaro at the Serbian National Theatre in Belgrade was the self-serving, infantile, offensive and just plain wrong production by celebrated Serbian theatre director Jagoš Marković.

The Met mounts a well sung but dramatically unconvincing ‘Carmen’

Should looks matter when casting the role of the iconic temptress for HD simulcast?

Maurice Greene’s Jephtha

Maurice Greene (1696-1755) had a highly successful musical career. Organist of St. Paul’s Cathedral, a position to which he was elected when he was just 22 years-old, he later became organist of the Chapel Royal, Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge and, from 1735, Master of the King’s Music.

Tosca in San Francisco

Yet another Tosca is hardly exciting news, if news at all. The current five performances have come just two years after SFO alternated divas Angela Gheorghiu and Patricia Racette in the title role.

Antonin Dvořák: The Cunning Peasant (Šelma Sedlák)

What an enjoyable opportunity to encounter Dvořák’s sixth opera, Šelma Sedlák¸or The Cunning Peasant!

Idomeneo, Royal Opera

Whether biblical parable or mythological moralising, it’s all the same really: human hubris, humility, sacrifice and redemption.

Donizetti’s Les Martyrs — Opera Rara, London

Opera Rara brought a rare performance of Donizetti’s first opera for the Paris Opera to the Royal Festival Hall on 4 November 2014, following recording sessions for the opera.

Luca Pisaroni in San Diego

Bass baritone, Luca Pisaroni, known to opera lovers throughout the world for his excellence in Mozart roles, offered San Diego vocal aficionados a double treat on October 28th: his mellifluous voice, and a recital of German songs.

La bohème, ENO

Jonathan Miller’s production of La bohème for ENO, shared with Cincinnati Opera, sits uneasily, at least as revived by Natascha Metherell, between comedy and tragedy.

Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall - Liszt, Strauss and Schubert

Any Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau performance is superb, but this Wigmore Hall recital surprised, too. Boesch's Schubert is wonderful, but this time, it was his Liszt and Strauss songs which stood out. This year at the Wigmore Hall, we've heard a lot of Liszt and a lot of Richard Strauss everywhere, establishing high standards, but this was special.

Wexford Festival 2014

The weather was auspicious for Wexford Festival Opera’s first-night firework display — mild, clear and calm. But, as the rainbow rockets exploded over the River Slaney, even bigger bangs were being made down at the quayside.

The Met’s ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’ a happy marriage of ensemble singing and acting

The cast of supporting roles was especially strong in the company’s new production of Mozart’s matchless masterpiece

Syracuse Opera’s ‘Die Fledermaus’ bubbles over with fun, laughter and irresistible music

The company uncorks its 40th Anniversary season with a visually and musically satisfying production of Johann Strauss Jr.’s farcical operetta

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Carmen Giannattasio as Mimi and Joseph Calleja as Rodolfo [Photo © ROH 2012 / Mike Hoban]
02 May 2012

La bohème, Royal Opera House, London

A robust Mimì and a self-regarding Rodolfo impart a distinctive flavour to this full-throttled version of John Copley’s evergreen La bohème.

Giacomo Puccini: La bohème

Mimì: Carmen Giannattasio; Rodolfo: Joseph Calleja; Musetta: Nuccia Focile; Marcello: Fabio Capitanucci; Colline: Matthew Rose; Schaunard: Thomas Oliemans; Benoît: Jeremy White; Alcindoro: Donald Maxwell. Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House. Conductor: Semyon Bychkov. Director: John Copley. Designs: Julia Trevelyan Oman. Lighting Design: John Charlton. Royal Opera House, London, 30 April 2012.

Above: Carmen Giannattasio as Mimi and Joseph Calleja as Rodolfo

Photos © ROH 2012 / Mike Hoban

 

This latest revival of Copley’s vintage 1974 production of La bohème has an anniversary quality. It is the 25th time it has been presented, and, remarkably, it marks the 50th anniversary of Copley’s first employment as a director at the Royal Opera House. Copley was presented with a cake at the end of the performance.

Anniversaries or not, I have mixed feelings about the endless revivals of safe, classic productions. On one hand it is impossible not to feel that they cramp experiment and exploration (Leoncavallo’s La bohème, anyone?) and give opera-going the air of a familiar, timid ritual.

On the other hand, it is hard to deny that they boast strong claims to be essential viewing for anyone who loves opera, and that they set the benchmarks against which more daring productions should be measured. Copley’s Bohème is the sort of production which gets remembered as a “good, old-fashioned” one and engenders warm feelings of recognition, conveying the impression that it is timeless and somehow authentic. It succeeds wonderfully well because it puts itself entirely at the service of the opera, translating Puccini’s imagined world into vivid and memorable stage pictures.

The general style of Copley’s production, matching that of Puccini’s score, might be described as rose-tinted realism with a rich vein of humour. The different worlds of the bohemians’ attic, the Café Momus and the Barrière d’Enfer are patiently and lovingly assembled in a way which paradoxically conveys both historical verisimilitude and a sense of romantic enchantment. This is the nineteenth-century Paris we all wish to believe in, not least for its potent ability to mythologize itself. Despite the many references to cold and poverty, there is no doubting its basic allure: better to be cold and poor there than warm and comfortable in many another city. This latest incarnation of the production was notable for power and passion rather than poetry and pathos. The gentleman in the next seat, a veteran opera-goer who informed me he had been coming to the Royal Opera since 1953, complained that it was “can belto rather than bel canto” and left at the first interval. That was harsh, indeed unfair, but not completely devoid of point. Such criticism would focus primarily on Carmen Giannattasio’s robust Mimì, who only seemed frail and consumptive at the very end (even then more in the acting than in the sounding), and in the earlier acts appeared impervious to the cold. The great Mimìs are able to suggest that every high note comes at a heavy price to ruined lungs, and much of the glory and pathos of the role turns on the recognition that she is prepared to pay that price, choosing intensity of living over the sort of calm, sensible existence her doctor would recommend. In this sense Giannattasio was a disappointment, and her performance musically impressive rather than truly moving.

LA-BOHEME-10166_0801.gifNuccia Focile as Musetta, Fabio Capitanucci as Marcello, Carmen Giannattasio as Mimi and Joseph Calleja as Rodolfo

There is really only one way to play Mimì, but Rodolfo is susceptible to a variety of interpretations. Joseph Calleja did occasionally give the impression that he was mainly there for the purple passages when his beautifully clear, heroic-sounding voice could be unleashed to thrill the house, but that is dramatically acceptable if one thinks of Rodolfo as something of a poseur, in love with the whole idea of being a poet. In fact Calleja’s representation was internally consistent, and carried off with many deft strokes of acting. His wonderfully helpless look when Mimì expressed her wish for a muff appeared as much a comment on the misfortune of poets in an ungrateful world as on any frustrated longing he may have had to relieve her sufferings. He was, in short, not the sort of Rodolfo that one especially feels for, but it was impossible not to enjoy his performance. Perhaps a more heart-melting Mimì would have brought out greater depths in his representation.

One of the delights of seeing opera at Covent Garden is the assurance that secondary parts are almost always cast incredibly well. The latest La bohème is no disappointment. Fabio Capitanucci was the best Marcello I’ve ever seen, looking and acting the part consummately well. His secret seemed to be simply to embrace the part as though he were the hero of the opera. I was vividly reminded of one of the items on my operatic wish list: alternating productions of the Puccini and Leoncavallo Bohèmes with the same singers taking the same roles. Capitanucci as Marcello would be a perfect starting point for the project. Matthew Rose as Colline and Thomas Oliemans as Schaunard were equally outstanding, and made up a very strong quartet , conveying a natural sense of tried and tested camaraderie. Rose’s fourth act address to his old coat was a beautifully judged piece of singing, and one of the highlights of the evening — almost as moving, dare I say it, as Giannattasio’s dying agonies.

David Chandler

LA-BOHEME-10166_0181.gifFabio Capitanucci as Marcello, Carmen Giannattasio as Mimi, Joseph Calleja as Rodolfo, Matthew Rose as Colline and Thomas Oliemans as Schaunard

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):