Puccini La bohème
Michael Fabiano, Nicole Car, Simona Mihai, Mariusz Kwiecien, Luca Tittoto, Florian Sempey; Chorus & Orchestra of the Royal Opera House/Antonio Pappano; dir. Richard Jones (London, 2017)
Opus Arte DVD: OA 1272 D; Blu-ray: OA BD7248 D 111 mins
This is an icy wintry La bohème with snow falling before the performance begins and the weather refusing to let up even as Mimì coughs her last. Every hand is frozen and the Bohemians shiver and shake throughout. In the pit, though, this new production for the Royal Opera glows with warmth. Antonio Pappano is in his element relishing every detail in Puccini’s score slipping into the Act I duet for Rodolfo and Mimì as if we’d never heard it before.
Richard Jones’s production is, well, Richard Jones. The Bohemians have a rooftop attic with a forest of beams and joists and not a bed or table in sight. There’s a ‘Jones’ hut in Act III where Marcello is painting a large mural on the outside wall and Musetta is teaching singing, but not a hint of a gate into Paris. But Act II is sumptuous – a sequence of bustling Parisian Arcades and a Café Momus with enough crisp napery to mop every embarrassed brow as Simona Mihai’s flirty Musetta dances on the tables setting her cap at winning back Marcello. Actually it’s not a cap but her silk knickers, which she dextrously removes in full view of the diners and dumps on her lover’s head. If Jones excels at pointing details, his young cast are with him all the way with scrupulous attention to words and complete psychological conviction. Nicole Car’s Mimì is near faultless and her Rodolfo, Michael Fabiano, is as good as they get nowadays. The emotional give and take, and take again of their Act II duet is suffused with the uncertainties of young love and sung with huge style. Mariusz Kwiecien is an absurdly handsome Marcello. And when was the last time that Colline’s (Luca Tittoto) farewell to his coat, ‘Vecchia zimarra’, provoked real tears?