Gail Edwards’ much-lauded production of La Bohème returns (yet again) to open Opera Australia’s Summer Season, with Hugh Halliday as the revival director.
In this tragic tale of young first love, Joyce El-Khoury plays the consumptive seamstress Mimi, while Ivan Magri sings Rodolfo, her confused and fickle lover.
Rodolfo’s companions in bohemian poverty are the painter Marcello, sung by Samuel Dundas, while Taras Berezhansky and Shane Lowrencev take on their roles as Colline the philosopher and Schaunard the eccentric musician respectively.
In setting the story in Germany’s Weimar Republic of the 1930s, rather than Paris in the 1830s, Edwards has modernised the production and given set designer Brian Thomson the opportunity to create the interior of a Spiegeltent on stage.
The two-tiered café scene stands out as a show-stopper when the coquettish Musetta, flirtatiously sung by Anna Princeva, takes centre stage for her self-admiring song, “When I walk alone in the street/ People stop and stare at me/ And everyone looks at my beauty,/ Looks at me,/ From head to foot…”
On opening night, conductor Benjamin Northey wrung maximum emotion from the score so, by the fateful dénoument, there was not a dry eye in the house.
In the last act, Musetta buys a muff to satisfy Mimi’s dying wish for warm hands, but nobody thinks to throw a woollen shawl over Mimi’s exposed shoulders. If she weren’t dying of consumption she would die of pneumonia!
NB. You may find different performers and a different conductor on the night you attend.
Until Mar 28. Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, Sydney. $47-$361+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.sydneyoperahouse.com
Reviewed by Irina Dunn