Puccini: La bohème

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Philips Duo
WORKS: La bohème
PERFORMER: Katia Ricciarelli, Ashley Putnam, José Carreras, Ingvar Wixell, Håkan Hagegård, Robert LloydROH Chorus & Orchestra/Colin Davis
CATALOGUE NO: 442 260-2 ADD Reissue
Recorded and first issued on disc in 1979, Colin Davis’s splendidly conducted Bohème has the orchestra of the Royal Opera House playing with warm string tone and, where required, a glorious crispness and vitality. However, if I mention the orchestra first, it is because the principal singers, though they are all in fine voice, are for the most part oddly unmoving. Katia Ricciarelli’s Mimì is exquisitely sung, from her very first entrance to her death scene in Act IV, with little of the unsteadiness of tone that has afflicted some of her recent performances, but she remains uninvolved and uninvolving. The Rodolfo of José Carreras is caught here when the tenor’s voice was at its freshest and most lyrical, with a free and ringing high C in ‘Che gelida manina’. His vivid portrayal of the impulsive young poet is by far the most successful individual performance, for the charming Ashley Putnam is a somewhat ladylike Musetta, and Ingvar Wixell makes Marcello a dull old stick. The supporting roles are strongly cast, with Robert Lloyd a sympathetic Colline and Håkan Hagegård a delightful Schaunard. But this worthy account is really no match for such rival versions as those of Serafin, Karajan (both Decca), or Beecham (EMI). Charles Osborne