With an opera the music is a given, and the conductor and singer can only do their best to perform it. That is why in modern times stage directors do their best to find new and different ways to stage the best known operatic pieces.
Puccini’s La Boheme is possibly the most often staged opera, and this reviewer cannot but be grateful to Stefano Mazzonis di Pralafera (director) and Daniel Oren (conductor) for letting the music and the singers to be the main event of the evening, with the theatre part of the proceedings remaining in the background, as it were (almost. There was a jeep on stage in act 4).
On a mostly grey set (designed by Carlo Sala), with scene changes happening in full view of the audience the viewer's eye was not diverted by the theater and his mind's ear was fully attuned to the warm voices and personalities of Maria Agresta (Mimi) and Giorgio Berruggi (Rodolfo) when they first meet and fall in love, and then lose each other because of jealousy, poverty and sickness. Unlike the well known Zeffireli production there were no donkeys onstage to steal the show from the silver voice of the red haired Musetta (Nadine Sierra) and one could have let oneself to be swept by the torrent of emotions whipped by the orchestra.
And in midst of all the emotional turmoil one could have also marvel at the wonderfully detailed dramatics, with the cold hand of Mimi from act one being finally warm in the fur bought for her in act four, or by the short comic relief of Colline (Carlo Striuli) serenading his coat before going to pawn it. A wonderful evening of music and drama, with the theatricals kept at bay.
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