Welsh National Opera’s La Boheme is a feast of the senses celebrating La Belle Epoque. Choosing to revive one of their best-loved productions with the alternative version of the opera is always going to run the risk of displeasing traditionalists and avid fans of the other production, however the beautifully contemporary visual spectacle they have created is guaranteed to win them many new admirers. Annabel Arden makes an assured debut with WNO as director with great attention to the nuances of character. Stephen Brimson Lewis has designed incredible, cinematic sets incorporating multimedia to great effect as the action switches from the shadows and starlight of Parisian garrett rooftops and the exuberant bustle of bohemian cafe culture in the Madcap years to the painterly winter tableaux of Act III. Extravagant diversive rather than outrageously distracting.
This popular story is, in the main, enjoyably light-hearted and the cast are infectiously jovial when playing the scenes packed with joie de vivre and mischief - especially the musing philosopher Marcello (David Kempster) and his on-off fickle flirt of a muse Musetta (Kate Valentine), both on fine form. Rodolfo (Alex Vicens) and Mimi (Anita Hartig) are charmingly believable lead lovers while one of WNO’s long-associated conducters Carlo Rizzi arouses much warmth from the familiar score.
Act II packs the stage with a flamboyant chorus of students, hawkers, shopkeepers, working girls, crossdressers and soldiers in sharp contrast with the touching, chilled quiet of Act III’s opening scenes. Then lovers are once more reconciled as a very sick Mimi dies not of mal du siecle, but consumption. Much to admire.
Read the review in full at: http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/36394/la-boheme