The Metropolitan Opera Presents: Season 1, Episode 1

La bohème (15 Mar. 1977)
"Live from the Metropolitan Opera" La bohème (original title)

TV Episode  -   -  Music
9.0
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Ratings: 9.0/10 from 12 users  
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Title: La bohème (15 Mar 1977)

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Cast

Episode credited cast:
Renata Scotto ...
Maralin Niska ...
...
Ingvar Wixell ...
Allan Monk ...
Paul Plishka ...
Italo Tajo ...
Andrea Velis ...
Alcindro
Dale Caldwell ...
Paul De Paola ...
Sergente dei doganieri
Domenico Simeone ...
Un doganiere
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...
Himself - Conductor
Metropolitan Opera Chorus ...
Chorus
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15 March 1977 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

 
A divine cast in an equally divine production
23 August 2011 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

All my life I have loved opera. La Boheme has always been one of my all-time favourites, having grown up with the 1988 production with Freni and Pavarotti, and is my second favourite Puccini opera after Tosca. Other productions I love are the 1965 with Freni and Gianni Raimondi, the 1982 Met production with Stratas and Carreras, the 1980 one with Te Kanawa and Domingo and the 1982 one with Cotrubas and Shicoff. For recordings, my favourites are the 1974 one with Caballe and Domingo and the one with Freni, Pavarotti and Panerai.

This 1977 Met production is yet another one of my favourite productions of this amazing opera. For the opera itself, there are many reasons as to why I love it. One is the heartfelt story. Two are the characters, these are characters with heart and you care for them. Three is Marcello and Musetta's love/hate relationship, which is very entertaining. Four is the amusing moment where the characters in act 2 are shocked by the expensive bill. Finally, the music is just sublime, not just Che Gelida Manina, but also Si Mi Chiamano Mimi, O Suave Fanciulla, Quando M'en Vo, Donde Lieta Uschi, the act 3 quartet, In Un Coupe...O Mimi Tu Non Piu Torni and the finale.

This amazing music is beautifully performed by the orchestra with a reliable chorus. James Levine's conducting is excellent, I have often heard criticisms that he plods and rushes, but I don't think that's the case here. You can always tell he loves his job and that is evident here, especially in O Mimi Tu Non Piu Torni which is very affecting.

The performances from a divine cast are just brilliant. Starting with Renata Scotto, who is just stunning as Mimi. I personally prefer her performance here than as Musetta in the 1982 Met performance, she was very good then if a little shrill. Mimi is I think suited more to her voice. As for her singing, it is as always beautiful and expressive, her Si Mi Chiamano Mimi is just glorious, and her acting especially in Donde Lieta Uschi and the finale to act 4 is outstanding.

She has a perfect Rodolfo in the name of Luciano Pavarotti. Pavarotti is not my favourite of all tenors, but he is one I like and respect very much. He has often been criticised for his acting(or lack of it), and I can understand as his acting is stand-and-deliver sort of quality. However in one of his best roles, he more than makes up for it with his unique, effortless voice(his high C is disappointing but the recovery was great) and appealing personality and smile. Acting-wise here, I actually find him very touching, his chemistry with Scotto even more so and his despair at Mimi's death sounds genuine. Plus with the search of the key moment, he manages to be quite mobile and makes the most of that moment, and his facial expressions speak volumes.

Ingvar Wixell as Marcello also impresses. I can also understand where people are coming from when they say they are not a fan of his voice, while I wouldn't call it small it does have a dry tone that mayn't appeal to all. I personally don't mind this sound especially when Wixell uses a good technique and dramatic skill. Even if I didn't like his voice, but I do, I cannot deny his acting is extraordinary(particularly as Rigoletto and Scarpia). His Marcello is very powerful and what I also like about Wixell is how well he blends with Pavarotti in O Mimi Tu Non Piu Torni and the sense of joy I felt watching him and Niska interact.

Which brings me to Maralin Niska. Niska is a joy to behold, seductive and over-bearing to start with yet humble in the fourth act, Niska shows these traits perfectly and shows a flexible voice without being too shrill on the high notes. Her interaction with Wixell is just a joy, and her Quando M'en Vo is wonderfully sung and delightfully flirtatious.

Allan Monk is a richly voiced and memorable Schunard, and Paul Plishka, a bass I have always liked but sadly underrated, is outstanding as Colline, I just love his sonorous voice and hearty acting. Benoit, Alcindoro and Parpignol are performed with no major problems.

On a technical level this La Boheme succeeds. The costumes are effective while not too fluttery or drab and the sets are traditional and have a sense of authenticity. The garret setting actually looks cold, something that the 1988 or 1965 productions-as much as I love them-didn't quite accomplish. Picture quality could've done with more sharpness but is a vast majority of the time good. The sound is more problematic, you hear everything fine but particularly in act 2 there is this annoying slipping in and out sort of sound quality. Thankfully in acts 3 and 4 it is nowhere near as distracting.

All in all, a divine production. 9.5/10 Bethany Cox


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