News Column

Review: Opera: La Boheme Royal Opera House, London 32/40

July 11, 2014

Martin Kettle

John Copley's production of the Puccini opera that even Stravinsky liked is 40 years old. Now in its 27th revival, there is still plenty of gas left in its tank and, with Copley returning to direct, the whole thing comes up freshly sparkling and focused.

Much of the credit goes to the young German conductor Cornelius Meister, whose commitment shines through on every page. He grips the score impressively - sometimes a bit too intrusively - and he elicits incisive playing from the orchestra. (He returns next year for Die Zauberflote.)

With seven performances over 10 days, the revival offers rotating casts. Angela Gheorghiu's Mimi will appear on the BP Big Screens transmissions on 15 July. But she will have to be at her best to match the dramatic power of Ermonela Jaho in the role. Jaho brings the same intensity to Mimi as she did to Puccini's Suor Angelica in 2011. Her singing in the upper register has you hanging on every phrase and you may never encounter a Mimi who inhabits the role more convincingly and intelligently.

Her Rodolfo, Charles Castronovo, doesn't command the greatest vocal sheen, but his tenor is robust and, like his fellow Bohemians, he looks the part. Markus Werba is luxury casting as Marcello, Jongmin Park is a resonant Colline and Daniel Grice, in a house debut, is a well-turned Schaunard. Simona Mihai's Musetta, meanwhile, is sympathetically acted and pertly sung, and Donald Maxwell and Jeremy White score in the cameo roles of Alcindoro and Benoit. The late Julia Trevelyan Oman's sets are as impressive today as they were in 1974. This is La Boheme as you want it to be done. Grade I listing status has been conferred on lesser achievements.

Martin Kettle

Until 19 July. Box office 020-7303 4000. BP Big Screens transmission on 15 July.

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Source: Guardian (UK)

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