Puccini: La bohème

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Puccini
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: La bohème
PERFORMER: Roberto Alagna, Leontina Vaduva, Thomas Hampson, Samuel Ramey, Ruth Ann Swenson, Simon Keenlyside; London Voices, London Oratory School Choir, Philharmonia/Antonio Pappano
CATALOGUE NO: CDS 5 56120 2
From the opening bars, Pappano and the Philharmonia sweep us right into this passionate, tender and invigorating performance, creating a stunning piece of ensemble opera in the studio.

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This Bohème has a truly impressive cast list. Ramey as Colline underplays his vibrant bass sound in ‘Vecchia zimarra, senti’, which somewhat reduces the impact of the aria, but his phrasing is superb. Hampson delivers a strongly characterised, intense Marcello whose exchanges with Alagna at the openings of Acts I and IV and with Vaduva in Act III are beautifully crafted. His scenes with Swenson’s Musetta are appropriately fiery. Swenson gives every phrase of Musetta’s music the essential flirtatious menace of a woman on the make. This is bold characterisation allied to glorious, golden sound. Vaduva’s Mimì grows more poignant and effective with each act. Her radiant tone and sense of pace provide an exquisite ‘Donde lieta’ and the Act I duet with Alagna simply soars.

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The sheer vibrancy of Alagna’s tenor sound and his open-throated Italian vowels – especially thrilling at the top of his register – make for an exciting first Rodolfo on disc. Occasionally he produces some unfocused notes but Alagna has certainly learned to colour and shape his unique sound, becoming a more polished artist. Elise McDougall