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Wonderful singing, orchestral playing and conducting, but I didn't care for the production values and staging and it didn't really move me
I have said many times in reviewing opera on IMDb that La Boheme is one of my favourites. I find it incredibly moving and Puccini's beautiful music and the final act are a big part of why. This Salzburg production for me was disappointing. It is better than Zurich, being much more consistent in the cast(and it is also better than the well-sung but convoluted and long-winded Salzburg Ariadne Auf Naxos), but there were other aspects that didn't make me care for it much, and like with the 1965, 1988, 1977, 1982 and 2008 performances there are better productions elsewhere.
Of all four acts, the most effective was the third. The desolate roadside was very atmospheric, and the staging was actually moving. The Christmas party feel of Act 2 is also colourful. The costumes however have the overall impression that people had come on-stage fresh from a party, and overall the settings were either too dilapidated or over-saturated. Just for the record, I don't mind modern settings, I did like the 2008 Villazon and Netrebko film after all, but felt that the production values could have gelled better with the concept(which was reasonably interesting actually). To me everything, to the Bohemians trashing the apartment, Musetta with shopping bags and Mimi looking for a cigarette rather than a candle, just felt superfluous. And sadly, the usually heart-breaking last act, despite Netrebko and Beczala's best efforts, didn't move me.
On the plus side, it is musically fantastic, with lush orchestral playing, Daniele Gatti's authoritative and very musical conducting and the beautifully balanced(if dramatically rather static) chorus. The cast are wonderful on the whole. Mimi is one of those roles that Anna Netrebko should be doing rather than the Bel Canto roles she's singing at the Met. One might say for a character as somewhat meek as Mimi, that Netrebko is not quite fragile enough, but so much makes up for that, namely how she throws herself into the role and paints a very poignant picture, her very varied musicality and her dark, expressive voice. Diction and tuning were never her strong points, but are acceptable here. Piotr Beczala, apart from instances like in O Soave Fanciulla where you could tell that illness was there or creeping in, is an ideal ardent lover and as Rodolfo sings beautifully and lyrically. The two are strong together, though I feel Netrebko's rapport with Villazon in the film is even more so. The Marcello of Massimo Cavalletti is both witty and sympathetic, and Nino Machaidze's Musetta is flirtatious and funny with a stylish, if occasionally acidic, voice. Carlo Colombara oozes nobility also as the philosopher Colline.
All in all, didn't care for it visually but loved it musically. 6/10 Bethany Cox
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