One way to use the DVD format for opera is to provide a video format with a clear picture and sumptuous sound and let a good performance speak more or less for itself. Severini's La Boheme
comes with a minimum of trimmings--subtitles in English, French and German; even a short account of the performance history is relegated to text in a booklet. The live performance has real theatrical presence, even to the extent that, at times, the vocal and orchestral subtleties get lost in wild applause. Pavarotti's Rodolfo was, in 1988, as plangently lyrical as ever and Freni's care-worn Mimi is a deeply touching and musical performance; Pacetti is a beefy full-blooded no-nonsense Musetta--the waltz song and ensuing duet with Marcello is for once the Broadway show-stopper it ought to be. Of the supporting roles, though, perhaps the most moving is Ghiaurov's Colline--his farewell to his old coat is a short passage of deep pathos which he has rarely sung as well as he does here. --Roz Kaveney
Four friends live in poverty in a Parisian garret. Rodolfo is a poet, Marcello a painter, Colline a philosopher and Schaunard a musician. They avoid paying rent to their landlord Benoit by getting him drunk. When they go out to eat, Marcello's ex-lover Musetta arrives with an ageing admirer, making him jealous. Rodolfo has meanwhile taken up with his neighbour Mimi, who is very ill. The opera follows the fortunes and fates of the two couples in the face of poverty and death. Mirella Freni and Luciano Pavarotti play the lead roles, in a special recording from the stage of the San Francisco Opera.