La Bohème, Opera Australia live cinema relay, April 2012Posted on 21 April 2012
Transferring the action from late nineteenth century Paris to early 1930s Berlin allowed director Gale Edwards some extra scope with Act II. The Café Momus has become a cabaret venue, replete with scantily dressed girls in stockings and corsets, including one topless, and hints of bisexuality. With a superb performance by Taryn Fiebig as a very glamorous Musetta, this was a lot of fun. She sang beautifully and her wonderful stage presence reminded me of Deborah Voigt.
Yet Ms. Fiebig was not the only one with panache, as Shane Lowrencev’s tall and very camp Schaunard made a great entrance in Act I at the same time as the two errand boys with provisions. Mimi was charmingly portrayed by Takesha Meshé Kizart, and the painter Marcello was very strongly sung and acted by José Carbo. I liked the touches of paint on his clothes, and his genial disposition, allied with a firmness that Musetta could find very attractive, was ideal for the role. After all she doesn’t think much of the wealthy Alcindoro in Act II and apparently far prefers the impecunious artist.
The bohemians’ garret is a huge room with a very high ceiling, light entering from windows at the top, and plenty of room for clowning around in Acts I and IV. But in Act I it is supposed to be very cold, yet Rodolfo was in shirt-sleeves and Mimi wore an elegant crochet shawl that would not have kept her very warm. It’s also supposed to be rather dark, yet in the cinema screening I saw — which was not the live relay that will be broadcast on April 24 — the lighting was over-bright, rendering the key all too visible. And in the close-ups Ji-Min Park as Rodolfo was covered in perspiration, which made him look ill. This was particularly odd in Act IV when it’s Mimi who is dying, and I wondered why he was laughing at some points. Very strange.
All in all, however, this staging gives a fine insight into the opera, with the four bohemians interacting very well together, and David Parkin as Colline giving a fine account of his beloved coat. In the cinema I was in the sound was too dry and bright, and Rodolfo’s voice did not show enough depth, but the other voices came over more successfully and the orchestra under the direction of Shao-Chia Lü gave a fine rendering of Puccini’s score, bringing out the emotive power of the music.
The cinema screening dates for Opera Australia’s season are: La Bohème 24th April; Lakmé 29th May; Don Giovanni 26th June; La Traviata 31st July; Turandot 28th August; Die tote Stadt 27th November; and then in 2013 The Pearl Fishers 29th January; and Madama Butterfly 26th March. For further information, including a list of cinema venues in the UK, click here.