At Tanglewood Andris Nelsons conducted the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Puccini’s La bohème, Piotr Beczala withdrawing to replace Roberto Alagna in Bayreuth’s Lohengrin, and Elliot Madore taking Schaunard in place of Davide Luciano, who encountered a visa-related issue.
Jonathan Tetelman and Kristine Opolais gave touching portrayals. Although a bit tentative vocally in the opening scene in which Rodolfo and his companions struggle to cope with the cold in their Parisian garret, Tetelman’s voice blossomed ardently in ‘Che gelida manina’, in which the poet introduces himself to the consumptive Mimì, and then thunderclaps ushered in a heavy downpour that hammered on the roof of the Koussevitzky Shed, diminishing the impact of Opolais’s beautifully sung ‘Mi chiamano Mimì and the couple’s ensuing duet. As Act One ended the sound of raindrops stopped almost as suddenly as it had begun.
Susanna Phillips was ravishing in Musetta’s Act Two waltz and evoked laughter as Musetta manipulates and humiliates the wealthy Alcindoro, taken by the excellent Paul Plishka, who also played the landlord, Benoit, having performed these roles often at the Met, from which he has just retired. Franco Vassallo was a marvelous Marcello, his strong baritone anchoring scene after scene, as the painter’s rocky relationship with Musetta waxes and wanes. Luca Pisaroni was a vocally commanding Colline, and Madore a capable Schaunard.
Nelsons and the BSO brought out the tenderness of Puccini’s melodies and his colorful depiction of Parisian life, producing a magnificent sound. Daniel Rigazzi made much of a few simple props, and was terrific in using the choruses to bring vividly to life the bustling street scene in the Latin Quarter and Café Momus.
Although having the performers enact their roles added verisimilitude to what was essentially a concert presentation, their movements occasionally compromised the quality of their voices, although that may not have been a problem for those in the rear of the Shed and on the lawn relying on video screens and amplification.