La Bohème review

Illustration by Anna Seibæk Torp-Pedersen.

Upon taking someone to the opera for the first time, I might well choose Puccini’s La Bohème. It’s a classic, the music is exquisite, and the story contains all the emotional highs and lows one expects from opera. This new production at the Royal Opera House, directed by Richard Jones, has a lot of expectations to live up to, as it replaces a well-loved older production that ran for 41 years.

Set around 1830, La Bohème tells the story of a group Bohemians living poor, but happy, in Paris attics. Poet Rodolfo is falling for ailing seamstress Mimì, painter Marcello is heartbroken over flighty and headstrong Musetta, musician Schaunard brings home some much-needed food and firewood through an enterprising commission to a gathering including philosopher Colline. A bohemian tale of love, friendship, jealousy and tragedy ensues.

Unfortunately, the cast do not fully match the passion that Puccini’s wonderful score provides. The comedic interactions between Marcello, Schaunard and the rest are very amusing, and the singing is excellent all-round, but the most watchable and best characterised is Nicole Car’s youthful Mimì. Though I was far away, she constantly drew my eyes to her. Her blue-grey dress complimenting her dark ginger hair beautifully, she fully inhabited her character and gave touching renditions of Mimì’s classic arias.