Notes and Editorial Reviews
A starry pairing in golden form help elevate this Bohème to classic status
"Ah, golden youth!" exclaims Marcel in the old translation at a rapturous moment in Act 2. Then, if memory serves, he follows up with, "You have not yet forsaken me." That's how everyone feels, at some point at least, during the course of a good Bohème and this one is no exception. Vividly recorded, vigorously conducted and sung by a distinguished cast still in their relatively youthful prime, it presents the score with an appeal that will be readily felt by newcomers and with a freshness that will make us of riper years feel...well, feel young
Act 1 moves quickly up to Mimi's entry. The vigour is not brash or wearing; there are moments of respite, but it is conducted as a symphonic unit, a first-movement allegro giocoso. The love music takes its natural pace, though it adds a silent beat immediately following Mimi's solo and another before the start of "O soave fanciulla". The second act registers clearly as a symphonic scherzo, or, in this arrangement where you play the first CD without a break, as an extended Mozartian finale. The various elements - the main solo group, the Christmas Eve crowd, the children (in splendidly disciplined high spirits), the stage band - are all well defined and the great ensemble runs its joyful course so that we can almost feel ourselves to be part of it.
Among the singers, it is important that Marcello has the presence and gaiety to be the life and soul and Boaz Daniel has all of that. Stephane Degout as Schaunard may be a little too like him for the purposes of the recording but is lively and stylish. The Colline, Vitalij Kowaljow, is less effective. The lovers Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón are a famous pair and deservedly so. His voice is richly distinctive, his style genial and ardent. Netrebko is pure-toned and ample in climaxes (though no Melba when it comes to the top C). As Musetta, Nicole Cabell shows many of the qualities of a well cast Mimi - in fact I wondered whether Netrebko (a little solid and sturdy in vocal character for the Mimi of these acts) might not have made a brilliant Musetta, as Welitsch did.
In the remaining acts no such qualms arise. Netrebko sings with feeling and imagination and Villazón is an inspired, golden-voiced Rodolfo. In fact, these are as finely performed as in any recording known to me. The orchestra play almost as though reading a supplementary libretto, so vivid is their commentary. This is a recording which takes its place alongside the acknowledged "classics". I found it moving, as of old yet with a sense of renewal. One thing more: I've already exceeded my word limit and have rarely been so reluctant to stop writing.
-- John Steane, Gramophone [6/2008]
Works on This Recording
La Bohème by Giacomo Puccini
Anna Netrebko (Soprano),
Vitalij Kowaljow (Bass),
Nicole Cabell (Soprano),
Stèphane Degout (Baritone),
Rolando Villazón (Tenor),
Gerald Haeussler (Voice),
Nicolas von Der Nahmer (Voice),
Boaz Daniel (Baritone),
Kevin Connors (Tenor)
Bertrand De Billy
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra,
Bavarian Radio Chorus
Written: 1896; Italy
Date of Recording: 4/2007
Venue: Live Philharmonie im Gasteig, Munich
Featured Sound Samples
Act I: "Che gelida manina"
Act II: "Quando m'en vò" (Musetta's Waltz)
Act III: "Dunque è proprio finita!"
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