Puccini: La bohème

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Puccini
LABELS: Erato
WORKS: La bohème
PERFORMER: Kiri Te Kanawa, Nancy Gustafson, Richard Leech, Alan Titus, Gino Quilico; Ambrosian Singers, St Clement Danes School Choir, LSO/Kent Nagano
CATALOGUE NO: 0630-10699-2 DDD
Nearly a century after its premiere in Turin in February 1896 we have a fresh and vibrant new recording of this opera – one of the best known and probably most loved in Puccini’s output. Nagano is well able to delineate Puccini’s large musical canvas, sweeping the colours of the orchestral scoring and the glorious vocal lines onwards and upwards with an intoxicating, rumbustious swagger.

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If Te Kanawa had made a recording of this role around the time she sang it at Covent Garden in 1976 (with Pavarotti as Rodolfo) or in the subsequent revival in 1979, it would have made for a fascinating comparison. Amazingly, this is her first recording of Mimì and she has successfully managed to integrate her mature, lustrous sound with the poignant vulnerability and gradually ebbing strength of Mimì to remarkable effect. It is a hauntingly convincing performance.

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Leech provides an excellent shaping of Rodolfo with a rich, passionate tone. Titus (Marcello) and Gustafson (Musetta) are as finely characterised and vividly sung as one could hope and all the ensemble interplays, especially in Acts III and IV, have a fresh and dynamic intensity. One wish only: that Nagano could have been persuaded not to intrude occasionally with Barbirolli-like humming and grunts. Elise McDougall