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Performances

Abdellah Lasri as Rodolfo and Aleksandra Kurzak as Mimi [Photo by Mara Eggert]
05 Apr 2017

Pop Art with Abdellah Lasri in Berliner Staatsoper’s marvelous La bohème

Lindy Hume’s sensational La bohème at the Berliner Staatsoper brings out the moxie in Puccini. Abdellah Lasri emerged as a stunning discovery. He floored me with his tenor voice through which he embodied a perfect Rodolfo.

Pop Art with Abdellah Lasri in Berliner Staatsoper’s marvelous La bohème

A review by David Pinedo

Above: Abdellah Lasri as Rodolfo and Aleksandra Kurzak as Mimi

Photos by Mara Eggert, except as otherwise indicated

 

Disarming me with its intimacy and genuine vocal chemistry, Hume’s staging caught me off guard. The Australian director’s take on Puccini channelled the vibe of a fresh musical. The result was an exhilarating, fast-paced show that appealed to the young audience, cheering many “bravi” throughout the performance.

Opening the overture, conductor Lahav Shani with dashing aplomb proved to be the musical impetus. In Hume’s concept, we travel back in time as the old man recollects his love for Mimì. The audience sees an elderly man all alone in a chair on stage. By setting the story up as one of Rodolfo’s reminiscences, Hume instantly saturates Puccini’s bohemia with an even thicker layer of nostalgic longing.

With a vibrant Pop Artsy design that triggered memories of Grease and Footloose, Dan Potra’s ultracool aesthetic embellished Hume’s slick production, facilitating the jumps in the story. Yet through her intimate dramaturgy, Hume also charged Puccini’s romantic melodrama with characterful depth. Basking in romance, a crushing “O soave fanciulla” closed the first act. Coy and sweet in her chemistry with the charismatic Lasri, Aleksandra Kurzak’s Mimì falling in love with Rodolfo oozed pure romance…

Old-Rodolfo.pngOld Rodolfo reminisces about his past

Deeply moving from the moment she arrived on stage, Kurzak captured the fragility of her character, presenting the most loveable of Mimìs. Immediately, in “Si, mi chiamano Mimì”, I became enamored by Ms. Kurzak’s virtuous portrayal as a delicate Mimì; by the time she undermines her love for Rodolfo by leaving him in “Donde lieta usci” in the third act, I was smitten.

Arttu Kataja made for an exemplary Marcello in his lustiness for Anna Samuil’s buxom Musetta. At Cafe Momus, they sang with zeal to each other, also joined by Martin Wright’s led choir, which was full of flair. Samuil downright dazzled as Musetta. Her Waltz certainly was a showstopper without being too much of a scene stealing moment from the other characters. She made quite the splash receiving a raucous applause.

Hume effectively contrasted Mimì and Rodolfo’s heartache with the excellently timed biting banter between Musetta and Marcello. The last act burst with gut wrenching drama, culminating in a devastating “Mimì!” from Lasri in utter anguish.

The evening belonged to the Moroccan tenor. The warmth of Lasri’s voice certainly must have warmed Mimì’s hands, as he sang “Che gelida manina”, swooning in romance. Onward, Lasri fueled Puccini’s flames. His voice gushes with personality. He owned Rodolfo. He has superstar wattage that amplifies his robust resonance, all the while serving it up with remarkable authenticity. For me it was the first encounter with this dream tenor, and with great promise, I look forward to Lasri’s future.

Musetta's-showstopper.pngAnna Samuil as Musetta [Photo by Thomas Bartilla]

Through his vocal theatricality, Lasri also evokes the most devoted rises from the other performers. As the loveable musician, Gyula Orendt’s Shaunard provided the necessary lighthearted overtones. Jan Martiník marked Colline’s benevolence, selling his coat for Mimì’s medicine. He turned “Vecchia zimarra” into a captivatingly poignant farewell to the philosopher’s cherished overcoat. Jonathan Winell delivered laughs as the foolish landlord Parpignol.

Israeli conductor Lahav Shani began the evening with the Berliner Staatskapelle quite loudly, but he quickly balanced his orchestra out with the singers, forming a fine whole. The exquisite saxophone and violin solos touched me deeply, reflecting Shani’s ear for the moving details in Puccini’s score. I look forward to hearing his fierce intensity in the Rotterdam Philharmonic. He will succeed Yannick Nézet-Seguin as Principal Conductor in September 2018. Shani’s charging energy and the RPhO’s hot temperament promises furious chemistry.

I confess I don’t get too excited when it comes too Puccini. But this performance was something else. The intimate duets and boisterous singing brought out the most of Puccini’s romance and even elevated my appreciation for the composer. Tonight’s heartbreak put the bohemian life in its true perspective. But finding another such electrifying production of Puccini will be rare: by the end of the evening, the skin on my face had tightened up from all the salt. It felt like I had a facelift.

David Pinedo

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