Giacomo PUCCINI (1858 - 1924)
La bohème (1896)
Ji-Min Park (tenor) - Rodolfo; José Carbó (baritone) - Marcello; David Parkin (bass) - Colline; Shane Lowrencev (baritone) - Schaunard; Takesha Meshé Kizart (soprano) - Mimi; Taryn Fiebig (soprano) - Musetta; John Bolton Wood (bass) - Benoit; Adrian Tamburini (bass) - Alcindoro; Benjamin Rasheed (tenor) - Parpignol; Malcolm Ede (bass) - Customs sergeant; Clifford Plumpton (bass) - Customs officer
Opera Australia Chorus, Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra/Shao-Chia Lü
Director: Gale Edwards
Set Designer: Brian Thomson
Costume Designer: Julie Lynch
Lighting Designer: John Rayment
TV Director: Cameron Kirkpatrick

Audio formats: LPCM Stereo; DTS-HD Master Audio, Picture Format 16:9
rec. live at the Sydney Opera House on 25 and 28 July 2011
Also available as CD - OPOZ56019CD

This production of La bohème, premiered at the Arts Centre, Melbourne on 12 April 2011 and later moved to the Sydney Opera House, where it was filmed. It can lay claim to being one of the most luxurious ever of this opera, at least when it comes to the Momus scene: colourful, crowded, cumulative, chaotic, coruscating, contrastive and comic. It is a feast for the eye and one might easily believe that all the visual splendour would outdo the central plot - but it doesn’t. The other acts are less flamboyant but gorgeous even so. The action has been transported from Paris to Berlin and the time is the early 1930s. Musetta looks like a mix of Mae West and Marlene Dietrich. She is an engaging actress and so are the rest of the cast. Visually and theatrically this production is a winner.
Musically there are swings and roundabouts. Taiwanese conductor Shao-Chin Lü, one of the leading opera conductors for more than fifteen years, opts for fastish tempos throughout, which I greatly prefer compared to certain maestros who drag and over-sentimentalizes a score where there is so much sentiment anyway. Thomas Beecham’s legendary EMI recording is hard to beat for the exquisitely chiselled phrases at what he states were Puccini’s preferred tempos. He has singers who can manage long unbroken phrases without running out of breath. The chorus is great in the stunning second act and the orchestra is in fine fettle. Concerning some of the solo singing I must report misgivings. Schaunard is rusty and Colline fairly mediocre but neither role is that important. Benoit, the landlord in act I is a good comedian and the other buffo part, Alcindoro in act II, does well with what little he has to sing.
Of the four central characters José Carbó’s Marcello is outstanding. He has stage presence, acts very naturally and sings with great character. His Musetta, Taryn Fiebig, who is also a cellist, has the same charisma and her brilliant singing is a further asset. The South Korean Ji-Min Park as Rodolfo at first seemed too lyrical, too weak, but he has a beautiful voice, He is too intelligent to press it beyond its natural limits and the high C in Che gelida manina is wonderfully assured. He is also a very expressive actor with a face that reveals all his feelings. What a Mimi he has in Chicago-born Takesha Meshé Kizart! Their first meeting is truly touching and they act so well together throughout. She has the same expressive face. Rarely have I seen such youthful and sensitive singers as this couple. Ms Kizart’s singing is one of the glories of this performance and in the third act, in many ways the emotional summit of the opera, she is magical.
Readers who, like me, tend to prefer sound recordings to DVDs will have noticed that this production is being issued simultaneously in DVD and CD versions. In this particular case, though, I would recommend even the most stubborn members of the anti-DVD wing to choose the DVD. The magnificent sets, the extraordinarily good acting and interplay between the singers and sense of watching true feelings, not just theatre, is worth the extra outlay. You will probably need a sizable pile of hankies ... but don’t let that deter you from watching it.
Göran Forsling

Magnificent sets, extraordinarily good acting … a sense of watching true feelings, not just theatre, 

see also review of Blu-ray release by Rob Maynard

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