I have been a massive opera fan for as long as I can remember now. La Boheme is one of my very favourites, and my second favourite Puccini opera after Tosca. What I love about La Boheme is not only its gorgeous music, Si Mi Chiamano Mimi and In Un Coupe... in particular are among the most affecting arias/pieces Puccini ever wrote, but also for the incredibly heartfelt story, the ending moves me to tears without fail no matter how many times I see the opera, and the characters that we know and love.
You feel the love between Rodolfo and Mimi, Marcello and Musetta's love/hate relationship never fails to amuse me and Colline and Schunard while not as prominent are much more than mere support characters, there is a moving gesture where Colline sings of selling his treasured coat for medicine for Mimi.
This 1982 production is exquisite, and one of my favourite productions of La Boheme alongside the 1988 production with Pavarotti and Freni, the 1965 one with Freni and Gianni Raimondi and the 1982 production with Carreras and Stratas. I also recommend the 1974 Domingo/Caballe/Milnes/Blegen recording, and the performance of the act 4 duet In Un Coupe... with Bjorling and Merrill is quintessential.
Back to this production, the costumes and sets are traditional and elegant, my favourites being Musetta's dresses and the garret setting. The lighting is never too dim, and the video directing is excellent. The orchestra seamlessly perform the music with real sensitivity and it is really emotional to hear. I was particularly taken with how the orchestra played during In Un Coupe... and Mimi's death scene. Then there is the conducting of Lamberto Gardelli, it is a very affectionate and genteel style of conducting which I think worked wonders.
When it comes to the staging, none of it feels pedantic in any way. Che Glenida Manina, Si Mi Chiamano Mimi and O Soave Fanciulla are wonderfully understated, La Commedia Stupenda...Quando M'en Vo is witty and hugely infectious and I cannot begin to tell you how poignant the final act was. If there were any minor problems I had, I do think Alcindoro should have left earlier than he did, and I think the first "Mimi" should have been staged at Mimi's death bed with Rodolfo holding her in despair rather than in Marcello's arms.
The performances are terrific. Ileana Cotrubas is a very touching Mimi and her Si Mi Chiamano Mimi is very musical and beautifully sung. Neil Shicoff is a dashing and ardent Rodolfo, Thomas Allen is powerful as Marcello, Marilyn Zschau is delightful as Musetta and I found it interesting that Benoit and Alcindoro were played by two different people after seeing a number of productions where they're sung by the same person(Italo Tajo in the 1988 SF production and Paul Plishka in the 2008 Met production are prime examples), that said both roles are played very well.
All in all, while there are one or two things I would have changed, they overall don't detract from how exquisite the rest of the performance is. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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