La Bohème, OHP Young Artists, Holland Park, June 2016Posted on 25 June 2016
Stephen Barlow’s production, which already debuted earlier this month, gives us a Café Momus scene full of fun in Act II, almost as if specially designed for this Christine Collins’ Young Artists performance on 24th June. I loved the sixteenth century costumes, and the numerous small entertaining vignettes by members of the Company. This was Bohemia very much as a state of mind rather than a real place, which of course is exactly what it means in Puccini’s opera.
In Act I Andrew D Edwards’ designs made Marcello’s painting a very effective backdrop to the set, with entrances and exits made from the side, or in the case of their landlord Benoît from under the backcloth itself, showing him entering the Bohemian’s garret from below. Richard Walshe as Colline dealt very wittily with him — as well as delivering a fine coat song in Act IV — and Julien Van Mellaerts sang a very stylish and lively Schaunard. Christopher Cull made a richly toned Marcello, providing a strong counterbalance to Elizabeth Karani’s theatrical Mussetta in the later acts. But what really made Act I thrilling was the vibrancy of Stephen Aviss as Rodolfo, singing his paean to the high art of poetry with passion and beautiful phrasing.
He continued his marvellous performance throughout, as befits a Rodolfo cover for the ENO, and interacted splendidly with the lovely voiced Mimi of Alice Privett, who really came into her own in Act III after a nervous start. The two of them sang beautifully together in Act III under the sympathetic and incisive conducting of Paul Wingfield, and the performance ended in fine style with the antics and swordplay of the four men, before the tragedy was brought to a close with Howard Hudson’s excellent lighting for the final moments.