La Boheme

3
Thu, 30th Mar 17
Welsh National Opera on tour with Puccini's classic.

I have a soft spot for la Boheme, it was the first opera I got to know, the first I saw live, the one I've seen most often and a childhood winter was never quite complete without a few "your tiny hand is frozen" moments. Having said that, it is quite a few years since I last saw one so was pleased to get the chance to watch the WNO.

I must say, musically it was up to WNO's usual exceptional standard, I was happy to close my eyes and revel in the beauty of the singing and the marvelous orchestra. But, and you sensed that coming, the production itself just failed to please and for the first time listening or watching la Boheme, I was left without tears on my cheeks.

The main issue was the set - it just made no sense to me. The loft was represented by a raised floor section and a door, which is perfectly acceptable but then people walked through the walls for no apparent reason - when we return to that location in Act 4 we find that the raised floor is gone and they are using the whole stage ... why set up a standard convention to then just break it for no good artistic reason? There is also an amount of projection but I am not sure if it was defective or it was meant to flash on and off. The projections also lacked any relationship to the story with random bits of smoke and psychadelic oil patterns. The side walls and the raised walkway were metal, lots of reflections but out of keeping with the rest of the set and props which were more realistic (though that damned armchair kept cropping up all over Paris!). However, my biggest beef was that, despite their fabulous vocal performances, the cast simple didn't seem to relate to each other, or half the time even look or turn to each other - not a problem in "operatic style" but an issue in a dramatic production, as I feel this was meant to be. Thank goodness for Lauren Fagen whose Musetta seemed to be the only fully engaged character on stage.

Listening to the general chatter on the way out I was clearly not the only person left scratching their head, still, like I say, the music was sublimely performed so at that level I had a good night.


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