La bohème – opera in four acts to a libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa & Luigi Illica after Henry Murger’s Scènes de la vie bohème [sung in Italian with English surtitles]
Marcello – Grant Doyle
Rodolfo – Aldo di Toro
Colline – Tim Mirfin
Schaunard – Njabulo Madlala
Benoit/Alcindoro – Eric Roberts
Mimì – Linda Richardson
Parpignol – Peter Kent
Musetta – Hye-Youn Lee
Customs Officer – Henry Grant Kerswell
Children from W11 Opera for Young People
The Boys Choir of the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School
Opera Holland Park Chorus
City of London Sinfonia
Elaine Kidd – Director
Colin Richmond – Designer
Colin Grenfell – Lighting Designer
Sarah Fahie – Choreographer
Reviewed by: Kevin Rogers
Reviewed: 27 June, 2009
Venue: Holland Park Theatre, Kensington, London
Here was a new production of Puccini’s “La bohème” for Opera Holland Park, and what a suitable staging it proved. There are no gimmicks in this straight-forward telling of the tale of love and despair. In Act One the four male friends are introduced as a happy bunch despite their poverty. Tender moments – Mimì’s first encounter with Rodolfo and her ultimate demise – were exactly that, generating pathos in this intimate setting.
The cast becomes uniformly better. In particular, the Rodolfo of Aldo di Toro took quite a while to warm up and throughout Act One he struggled to produce a suitable volume in his upper register. However, his partnership with Linda Richardson’s superb Mimì was always captivating and intensely believable. Their first meeting (by chance, with Mimì’s candle needing to be lit) was executed with playfulness.
The Mimì of Richardson was a dramatic and potent triumph. Dressed as a dour housewife of (maybe) World War II, her soprano was beautifully clean, which gave her Act Three pleadings a sense of naïveté which seemed wholly appropriate. The only other woman in the opera, Musetta, is played as a busy and spoilt schoolgirl by Hye-Youn Lee, which did not seem appropriate and made her sympathy for Mimì in Act Four not quite believable.
The other man with a love interest (in Musetta) is Marcello. His portrayal – probably the direction – seemed a little distant from the action and, whilst the two main lovers should be at the fore, the other stories are important and ought not to be relegated. The philosopher Colline (Tim Mirfin) gets one notable contribution when he sings about his coat that he is going to pawn, which Mirfin delivered with aplomb and tinged with bittersweet irony and foreboding.
Njabulo Madlala sang the musician Schaunard, the one member of the quartet of friends who makes some money, and he was certainly dressed in fancy clothes. He and his friends bamboozling the landlord was done with great comic timing. The supporting cast and the chorus were in fine voice.
The City of London Sinfonia provided able support under Robert Dean. The orchestra was relatively small, pleasingly so, allowing, as it does, detail to appear naturally, exemplified by the Café Momus act.
- Further performances on 29 June and 1, 3, 5 (matinee), 7, 9 & 11 July and 11, 13 & 15 August at 7.30 p.m.
- OHP 2009 Preview