Notes and Editorial Reviews
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Jonathan Miller's 2009 La Bohème for the English National Opera reunites him with the designer Isabella Bywater, and with sets based on documentary photography of 1930s Paris by Brassai and Kertész.
Miller has a reputation for updating operas: his 1982 Mafiosi-style Rigoletto for the ENO, set in 1950s New York, transposed a scene to an all-night diner taken straight from Edward Hopper.
Cast & Crew
English National Opera
Music GIACOMO PUCCINI
Libretto GIACOSA & ILLICA
English translation by AMANDA HOLDEN
Designer ISABELLA BYWATER
Stage Lighting JEAN KALMAN
Running Time: 120 minutes
"…Melody Moore as Mimi. This young lady is special. She has the most distinctive dark complexion to her voice and she sings and phrases with real fantasy. She alone really filled the house and hearing the voice open to greet the coming spring in her act one aria was for sure one of the high spots of the evening.
The other, of course, was that final scene. Miller played this very low key and for real with Moore extraordinarily convincing in catching the glacial calm of approaching death. She dies, of course, unnoticed - except by the orchestra - but in that final exchange of dialogue (a Puccini masterstroke) Alfie Boe's quiet disbelief was entirely unexpected and the more moving for it."
- Edward Seckerson, The Independent
"Jonathan Miller has served the English National Opera well over the thirty years since his first work for the company. And this intelligent and understated Bohème looks set to be another invaluable asset in the company's repertoire...An ingenious set design by Isabella Bywater helps to create a production that is literally light on its feet. What we have, though, is a Bohème that takes us simply and unpretentiously to the work's heart. With a young, committed cast, it's a moving and thoroughly satisfying evening's theatre."
- Hugo Shirley, Musicalcriticism.com
"As a staging, it has all the hallmarks of a future classic of the ENO repertoire."
- Ruth Elleson, Opera Today
"Boe’s voice is rather small and yet the timbre is pleasing in the middle register; up top it becomes rather more edgy. He is however constantly in the shadow of his Marcello, the excellent Roland Wood, both in vocal and in acting terms. The first scene of the opera, seen in the flat against a rather anonymous rooftop-scape, works because the conductor, Miguel Harth-Bedoya shapes it so intelligently. He underplays the orchestral underscoring of Benoit’s arrival, however. Boe and Roland Wood exchange well, and the four men provide a persuasive case of the bohemian life. Simon Butteriss is greatly comedic as the landlord Benoit - he looks remarkably like George of
George and Mildred. It is the Colline, though, Pauls Putninš, that carries the greatest stage presence.
Harth-Bedoya’s strength lies in projecting the long-range trajectory of scenes. He succeeds again in Act 2, where the long scene with Musetta in the Café Momus rises to a splendid and inevitable conclusion. The orchestra is well-drilled, too - more so than in the recent run at ENO under Stephen Lord. The detail in the final stages of the boys’ games in the final act, just prior to Musetta’s entrance, is most impressive.
Melody Moore sings Mimì. Her portrayal of a shy girl in the opera’s initial phase is rather affecting; a pity Boe is rather rigid in comparison (“Your tiny hand is frozen”). Moore’s answer to Boe’s aria (“I’m always called Mimì”) is creamy-voiced and yet has a core of fragile innocence running through it. Her high register is pure and her pitching is well-placed. Her scenes with Marcello at the onset of Act 3 are convincing and emotionally poignant; again, she throws Boe into shadow, as her final death throes of Act 4 are remarkably sustained against Boe’s rather more studied, learned-by-rote responses.
Pauls Putninš is memorable as Colline. His voice is large, he portrays a most jovial personality and yet can bring poignancy to his role, too. His “Veccia zimarra” is one of the high points of the performance.
Close-up camera work avoids the feeling of an over-crowded stage that is the case in the opera house itself. The Charlie Chaplin Parpignol is a nice touch, while Hanan Alattar absolutely looks the part of a coquettish temptress, Musetta. Alattar excels vocally, too – I would like to see and hear more of her. The experienced Richard Angas is also firmly in character as Alcindoro."
- Colin Clarke, MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
La Bohème by Giacomo Puccini
Richard Angas (Bass),
Hanan Alattar (Soprano),
Melody Moore (Soprano),
Alfie Boe (Tenor),
Roland Wood (Baritone),
Paul Putnins (Bass),
Philip Daggett (Tenor),
Mark Tinkler (Treble)
English National Opera Orchestra
Written: 1896; Italy
Notes: Sung in English
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