Puccini: La bohème

COMPOSERS: Puccini
LABELS: Opus Arte
ALBUM TITLE: Puccini: La bohme
WORKS: La bohème
PERFORMER: Inva Mula, Aquiles Machado; Teatro RealChorus and Orchestra/Jesús López Cobos;dir Giancarlo del Monaco (TV film, 2006)
CATALOGUE NO: OA 0961 D (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16:9 widescreen)
In his booklet note the director Giancarlo del Monaco makes much of the supposed ‘cinematic’ qualities of both the score and his staging – by which he seems merely to mean Puccini’s (entirely ‘operatic’) command of pace and dramatic perspective, and his own fussy focus on self-consciously realistic but essentially trivial, even vulgar, detail (such as Rudolfo air-freshening the en-suite WC after Schaunard’s used it). His tendency to over-dress the set with props and extras is at its worst in the Café Momus scene – here a frenetic Christmas Eve floorshow, complete with circus clowns, jugglers, stilt- and tightrope-walkers, a gypsy fortune-teller, a harlequinade and every ‘crowd scene’ cliché in the book. Of course, no truly ‘cinematic’ approach would tolerate the Rodolfo of Venezuelan tenor Aquiles Machado, who here looks like a Christmas pudding and phrases with as much poetry as William McGonagall. But then, they’re an unlikeable bunch, these Bohemians who knock out Alcindoro’s chauffeur to steal his car and indulge in such infantile horseplay you want to slap them. The one true artist among them is soprano Inva Mula who sings Mimì with melting sensitivity. But even she and Cobos’s conducting don’t make this a DVD you’d want to watch twice. Mark Pappenheim

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