La Bohème, English National Opera, ENO, London Coliseum, October 2014

This excellent Jonathan Miller production with its bifurcated set, easily manoeuvred into three different sets, was graced with the beautiful voice of Angel Blue as Mimi. More on her later, but in the meantime the rest of the cast produced fine singing and for the most part vivid portrayals of their roles.

Rodolfo and Mimi, Act I, all images ENO, Thomas Bowles

First meeting,  Act I, all images Thomas Bowles

George von Bergen made an admirably artistic Marcello, who really came into his own during the Act III duets with Mimi, then Rodolfo. I loved Barnaby Rea as Colline, not just for his well-delivered cloak song towards the end, but also for the sly wittiness of this philosopher who even managed an entrechat quatre, or something similar, when the Bohemians are fooling around in Act IV. Remarkable. George Humphreys made a robust member of the team as Schaunard the musician, and David Butt Philip sang strongly as Rodolfo though seemingly somewhat strained at times, showing little chemistry with Mimi and needing a more buoyant stage presence.

Musetta at the Café Momus, Alcindoro seated

Musetta at the Café Momus, Alcindoro seated

Stage presence was certainly no problem for Jennifer Holloway who took the role of Musetta, giving a fine portrayal of vocal emotion in her siren calls to Marcello during the Café Momus scene, with Andrew Shore beautifully underplaying the role of her elderly companion Alcindoro. As Benoit the landlord in Act I he was equally superb, helping make this brief scene a hilarious interlude. Fine singing from other soloists, but what really made the evening was Angel Blue. As soon as the passing of winter swelled up from the orchestra in Act I she carried all before her, and things only got better thereafter. Her warmth of tone was an unalloyed pleasure and her death scene in Act IV touchingly quiet and soft.

Colline, Mimi, Rodolfo

Colline, Mimi, Rodolfo

Wonderful emotional power and tension from the orchestra under the baton of Gianluca Marcianò drove the drama forward, and the revival of this production by Natascha Metherell worked well. I liked the lesbians dancing together at Café Momus, I loved the marching band of real instrumentalists, and the cockney accents for the girls going to work in the cold dawn of Act III were a delight.

Altogether highly successful, and though the interaction of Rodolfo and Mimi lacked essential chemistry, her singing and the orchestral playing restored everything fully to life.

Performances continue on various dates until November 28 — for details click here.

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