Revivals of Jonathan Miller stagings have been the staple over the past thirty years at ENO. In Miller’s clear-headed production, the 1930s take on tragic young love among Parisian students certainly did not lack any drama.
There is much to admire in this revival. Alexander Joel leads an idiomatic performance from both singers and orchestra. It is perhaps unusual in Bohème for Colline to be the star turn, but for me David Soar exuded class in that role. A real quality bass. Not that the others are necessarily eclipsed. Marcello and Musetta are in safe hands with assured characterisations from a very positive Nicolas Lester and an exuberant Nadine Benjamin.
What about the doomed Mimi and Rodolfo? Jonathan Tetchman is a dashing hero who gains in passion and vocal confidence as the evening progresses. Much interest is focussed on the young Welsh soprano Natalya Romaniw and she doesn’t disappoint. In this production she portrays a strong but consumptive Mimi, perhaps not as fragile as the original, but she can spin a good Puccinian line and her richness of tone point towards a big career in Italian opera. Definitely one to watch.
Much to admire, but was it an inspiring dramatic knock out? Not quite. Two reasons, and one of them is my fault. Nothing particularly wrong with the translation, but I don’t quite get on with Bohème in English. That’s maybe minor, but one thing is certain. Bohème must be moving and emotional. I was left admiring a fine performance, without really being caught up in the plight of poverty and the sadness of young love. How to catch these moods? That is of course the challenge and the fascination of opera!
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