- •Contact us
- •About us
- •Advertise with the FT
- •Terms & conditions
© The Financial Times Ltd 2013 FT and 'Financial Times' are trademarks of The Financial Times Ltd.
Last updated: June 9, 2012 12:06 am
Are Puccini’s operas realistic? Although they are often lumped together with the Italian “verismo” school, they hardly warrant the term – not even La Bohème, the most down-to-earth of them all in its depiction of grimy student life in Paris, which has rather the feel of a romantic novella.
David McVicar’s production updates the opera to a gritty, modern, urban setting, probably London. Staged in 2000 for the Glyndebourne tour and last seen in the main festival in 2003, when its Rodolfo was Rolando Villazón, this production aims to purge Puccini’s opera of the last drop of sentimentality.
Here we get “verismo” in the proper sense of the term: unvarnished, everyday reality. The students’ garret is not so much tatty as a scene of squalor. The clientele at Café Momus is a mixed, edgy crowd, including a couple of garishly garbed transvestites, and Parpignol has gone from being a toy seller to a pedlar of pirated DVDs. In this milieu an ailing young woman facing an early death is potentially a very serious matter, and so it is surprising that this revival does not succeed in being emotionally more hard-hitting.
Good though their voices are, the lead singers do not touch the heart. The tenor following in Villazón’s footsteps is another young Mexican, David Lomeli. Bright of tone, he plays a gauche Rodolfo, who is nicely unsure of himself as he courts his Mimì, Ekaterina Scherbachenko. Her equally bright soprano, with its glittering surface timbre, projects impressively. Together, they bring an almost ideal combination of youth and experience to their roles – but there is not much warmth between them.
The rest of the cast includes the expansively voiced Andrei Bondarenko as Marcello and Michael Sumuel as a lively Schaunard. Irina Iordachescu’s Musetta could do with some of her Mimì’s brilliance of voice, but Nahuel Di Pierro springs to life with his resonant singing of Colline’s aria. Richard Mosley-Evans is a heavy-handed Benoît, Donald Maxwell a model of decorum as Alcindoro.
What gives the entire performance a lift is the scintillating conducting of Kirill Karabits, who refuses to let the opera get bogged down in morose sentimentality and draws first-rate playing from the London Philharmonic Orchestra – a young man’s Puccini, just as this production demands.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2013. You may share using our article tools.
Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.