Puccini: La bohème

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Puccini
LABELS: Discover International
WORKS: La bohème
PERFORMER: Miriam Gauci, Giacomo Aragall, Vicente Sardinero, Marcel Rosca, Carlos Bergasa, Monika Krause; Jaak Gregoor Chorus, BRTN Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra, Brussels/Alexander Rahbari
CATALOGUE NO: DICD 920107-8 DDD (distr Complete Record Company)
The principal difficulty of casting Mimì, the seamstress heroine of this great dramatic tear-jerker, is finding a singer who can sound convincingly young, frail and yet cope with the not inconsiderable demands of a Puccini prima donna. This mid-price recording, made in Belgium earlier this year, would seem to have struck gold in the young Maltese soprano Miriam Gauci, whose voice is perfect for the part – warm, sweet-toned, affecting and fragile. The Spanish tenor Giacomo Aragall’s Rodolfo may seem a trifle bluff in comparison (the result of rather muddy diction), but he too is ardent and romantic, if not always at ease.

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Of the supporting cast, Monika Krause’s seductive Musetta stands out. Her ‘Quando me’n vo’’ is marvellously knowing, and her voice and manner contrast well with Gauci’s in terms of timbre and character.

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But the overall success of the recording lies in Alexander Rahbari’s conducting. He draws a brilliantly rich performance from the BRTNPhilharmonic, wringingly emotional but so highly musical and finely drawn as to stay the right side of kitsch. Only an excessively reverberative acoustic – these bohemians sound as though they live in a cavern rather than a garret – detracts from the set’s overall excellence. Claire Wrathall