In case the reader didn't notice from the heading, this is an English-language version of Puccini's La Bohème. That puts it in a rather special category, one that is off-limits to some, but highly desirable to others, assuming the performance is good. Well, the performance is quite excellent on several fronts: first, the Mimi of Melody Moore is sensational and would easily be competitive with most others in Italian-language versions; secondly, the sets and costuming are both beautiful and realistic. Set in 1930s Paris in this version, the costuming and hairstyles as well as the scenery, including the artists' attic and Café Momus, have the appearance of an early-1930s movie, but in rich, detailed color. The only quibble I have with any visual aspect is Mimi's rather flat wavy hairdo – the flapper, which is perfectly appropriate for the historical period, but which is not flattering to Ms. Moore, a quite attractive young woman who here takes on a rather plain-Jane appearance largely because of that hairstyle. That said, I'll concede this is a minor matter and that mostly everything else is quite fine in this production.
Alfie Boe as Rodolfo is also quite excellent, as is Hanan Alattar as Musetta. Her Quando men vo (or shall I say, I love to go) has real flair. But so often it is Moore who steals the show, from her big arias (I'm always called Mimi) to her passionately sung duets and heartrending dying scenes. But it's not just her beautiful and powerful spinto voice that set her apart from other Mimis: her dramatic skills are excellent too, and one can only predict that she will have a major career on the operatic stage. Most of the rest of the cast members are strong and the chorus sings with real spirit. The conducting of Miguel Harth-Bedoya, with well chosen tempos and fine playing from his orchestra, is brilliant. The sound reproduction is vivid and powerful and the camera work throughout is excellent, coming across especially well in Blu-ray. (The performance is also available in standard DVD video format.)
All in all, I can say I was surprised that this production turned out so well, as I was skeptical that an English-language version of this opera could be so effective. Moreover, most of the cast was unknown to me and I therefore didn't have high expectations. To those purists who avoid English-language versions of the great Italian operas, I can only say they'll be missing a truly unique performance of this Puccini masterpiece. Highly recommended!
Copyright © 2011, Robert Cummings