[Image:Duncan Rock as Marcello, John Savournin as Schaunard, Barnaby Rea as Colline, Jeremy Peaker as Benoit and Ji-Min Park as Rodolfo. Photo credit: Robert Workman. Cast II, opening night 2nd May 2014]
La Bohème, Opera North
Press night: Friday 2nd May 2014
La Boheme is one of the most performed operas worldwide. Puccini’s celebrated opera tells the story of four penniless bohemians into whose lives love, jealously and death make a sudden appearance.
Tenor Ji-Min Park inhabited the role of Rodolfo, the passionate poet and playwright with an aura of true youth and freedom. His sickly love interest Mimi, played by Anita Watson, was off to a bit of a shaky and shrill start, but the chemistry of the cast more than made up for it. Alongside them, Marcello (Duncan Rock), Schaunard (John Savournin) and Colline (Barnaby Rea) were the other three bohemians, a group of joyful friends on the very brink of starvation. The star of the show was undoubtedly Sky Ingram in her role of Musetta, Marcello’s flirtatious and temperamental love interest, who was the very definition of bohemian passion. The entire piece was masterfully conducted by the young Ilych Rivas, a 20 year old Venezuelan who had a very strong grip on the tender arias.
The tender passion expressed by Rodolfo and Mimi on their first meeting is contrasted by the homosocial relationships of the bohemians, which have all the humorous makings of a student romcom. The four friends are so comfortable with each other, and their scenes radiate such warmth, with their ingenious money saving ploys and drunken antics, that it’s easy to forget that this is a production of a classic opera. One issue was the lack of continuity in the surtitles, but the story and the cast were so relatable and expressive that this was hardly noticeable.
Lloyd and designer Anthony Ward update the opera to the 1950s, an era of existentialism, motorbikes, graffiti and pop art. The setting captures the duality of the poverty and excitement of the time, whilst showing just how timeless and vibrant the music really is. The market scene appeared a little out of keeping with the rest of the setting, but the scenes at Cafe Momus’ and in the bohemian apartment were elegant and understated while remaining honest and not over glamorized. The stage, with a white frame creating the impression of a Polaroid, was not only visually effective but harked back to the theme of the memories of love and days gone by.
Only such a youthful and vibrant cast could get across the contemporary feel and make the story feel just as relevant as if it was happening on our very doorstep. Passionate, fast-moving and sometimes very funny, it is a production that emphasises the youth of the protagonists. The cast’s chemistry was so convincing that by Rodolfo’s final cries of “Mimi” the entire theatre was in awed silence and it was difficult not to shed a tear.
La Bohème is now running at The Lowry, Salford Quays until May 17th. More information is available at www.operanorth.co.uk/productions/la-boheme
Opera North’s production ofPuccini’s La Bohème, Spring 2014:
Conductors: Andreas Delfs and Ilyich Rivas
Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Revival Director: Michael Barker-Caven
Set and Costume Designer: Anthony Ward
Lighting Designer: Rick Fisher
Choreographer: Quinny Sacks
Revival Choreographer: Maxine Braham
Cast I (opening night 29 April)
Gabriela Iştoc/ Sebastien Guèze/ Lorna James/ Phillip Rhodes/ Gavan Ring/ Jimmy Holliday/ Geoffrey Dolton
Cast II (opening night 2 May)
Anita Watson/ Ji-Min Park/ Sky Ingram/ Duncan Rock/ John Savournin/ Barnaby Rea/ Jeremy Peaker
Filed under: Theatre & Dance