Puccini: La Bohème

WORKS: La Bohème
PERFORMER: Anna Netrebko, Rolando Villazón, Boaz Daniel, Nicole Cabell, Stéphane Degout, Vitalij Kowaljow; Bavarian Radio Chorus & SO/Bertrand de Billy.
CATALOGUE NO: 477 6600
Mimì should be sweet and lyrical, tender with just a hint of steel to her. And when Mirella Freni or Angela Gheorghiu take the role you can hear every word over which Puccini and his librettists laboured so long. Anna Netrebko, on the other hand, has little light and shade in her voice, is positively imperious, and when she dies you wonder what all the fuss was about. As for her diction she might as well be singing the St Petersburg telephone directory and not words by Giacosa and Illica. But where’s Mimì in this new recording? In ‘Mi chiamano Mimì’ Gheorgiu gives you a young woman tumbling into love and when Freni confronts the erring Rodolfo outside the bar in Act III you can hear death rattling in her throat. Netrebko never seems to shape her voice to character. She dies at mezzo forte, not piano. As her Rodolfo, Rolando Villazón is magnificent, by turns ardent and angry and there’s a stream of bright golden tone in a ringing ‘O soave fanciulla’ that outshines both Roberto Alagna in duet with Gheorghiu and Nicolai Gedda who partners Freni. Bertrand de Billy and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra make Puccini’s score as fresh as a new coat of paint, although some times the colours are a little strident. Are those jazzy syncopations in the Café Momus Act really what the composer intended? Sometimes it sounds more Gershwin than Puccini in Paris.