When watching Gale Edwards’ La Boheme, I can’t help feeling that Opera Australia is bound to drag out this production every few years for at least the next decade.
It’s a stylish, beautiful and effortless production of one of the world’s most beloved operas that is bound to endure and sell tickets for years to come.
It’s a story that operagoers know like the back their hands – the young bohemians living and loving through harsh terrible times and the tragic love story between Rodolfo and Mimi. It has inspired audiences and artists alike for hundreds of years, with countless works based on the opera including the Broadway musical Rent.
But director Gale Edwards has found new life in the story. First performed in 2011, this is the second time this production has been seen in Sydney and is once again an absolute must-see thanks to a magnificent cast.
Gianluca Terranova and Nicole Car are the perfect Rodolfo and Mimi. Terranova, last seen in La Traviata on Sydney Harbour, sings with a gorgeous, rich tone, every bit the classic Italian tenor. Car absolutely shines, particularly in the third and fourth acts revealing spectacularly assured singing and some serious acting chops. She is without a doubt Australia’s fastest rising opera star.
Samuel Dundas is a powerful, swoon-worthy Marcello and David Parkin works beautifully as Colline, particularly in the fourth act aria Vecchia zimarra. Lorina Gore threatens to steal the show as a sparkling Musetta. She wins both laughs and tears, stepping into the role of a glamorous 1920s German cabaret starlet, every bit the diva, fitting in perfectly to Gale Edwards’ vision.
The vision for this production is so well conceived, with the 1830s Latin Quarter of Paris gently updated to late 1920s Berlin. The iconic Café Momus of the second act has been transformed into a decadent spiegeltent, brilliantly realised with Brian Thomson’s sets and Julie Lynch’s costumes.
Both settings are worlds on the cusp of revolution, but particularly in this version, there’s so much tension bubbling under the surface that adds a real sense of danger. It’s a tension that Edwards has the good sense to only hint at without overplaying.
[pull_left]The production works because the direction feels so effortless[/pull_left]
The production works because the direction feels so effortless. Yes, it has been substantially reimagined, but you never get the impression that Edwards is getting in the way of the original score and libretto which both absolutely shine through.
Conductor Christian Badea with the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra bring Puccini’s score to life. They get every moment right, from the jaunty crowd scenes and bohemian celebrations through to Puccini’s grand orchestral swells, matching the action onstage.
When a production like this comes along and combines gorgeous music and singing with spectacular design, you know that Opera Australia has hit their stride. A sumptuous treat for the eyes and the ears, this is a wonderful night at the opera.