The OperaDou Jury* delivers a hung verdict for the Oslo La Boheme,
This review is from: Puccini: La Boheme (Oslo Opera 2012) (Diego Torre/ Vasilij Ladjuk/ Marita Sølberg/ Jennifer Rowley) (Electric Picture: EPC02BD) [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
If this review were to reflect my own personal opinion of the Norwegian State Opera production of Puccini's La Boheme, directed by Stefan Herheim, I would have no hesitation in giving it five stars, for it is superlatively well sung and bravely introduces a whole new dimension to an opera we think we know inside out. However, when you bring together a jury of some 15 aficionados, including two who have never seen the work before, and therefore have no preconceptions, three who "disapprove" of the unconventional approach adopted by the director and several seasoned opera connoisseurs who appreciate the courage needed to give the staging such a thought-provoking slant, a unanimous verdict is not possible.
As our video reveals, the debate after the screening was, at times, quite heated. It is indeed, asking quite a lot of audiences who know and love this opera, to accept the idea of tuberculosis being replaced by cancer, and Mimi dying in a hospital bed before the orchestra plays a single note... The "saving grace" was of course the quality of the singing and playing which made this production musically superb and did draw almost unanimous praise.
In the end, quite a few members of the jury expressed what they felt the director was trying to achieve, suggesting that the all-pervading presence of death in a context we can all relate to did indeed give the story greater depth than the often over romanticised approach we are used to - and that this in consequence made the music all the more poignant...
Here are some of the jury members' written comments:
"I very much liked this mixture of the fantastic (evoking Tim Burton and James Ensor) and romanticism. The orchestra and singers are perfectly in line with this. I gradually got involved and was very moved -- although not immediately."
"Surprising stagng - to say the least! Makes it less romantic than a conventional production, but on the other hand it comes across as more realistic and powerful. I was much more moved by the second half. Interpretation and singing first class. Beautiful images, very well filmed - and the sound was vivid and realistic."
"The staging makes the story difficult to understand. It is shocking and even quite brutal for those who have actually had experience of the illness (cancer). In contrast, the women's voices were particularly beautiful, especially that of Musetta. Also, the way the sets underwent a total transformation right in front of our eyes was quite staggering."
"Highly original. A way of presenting a very well known opera in a modern way. This approach draws us into the suffering and the environment and the medical care that goes with it. Treating death from our viewpoint is a very interesting idea. The scenes where we see the hospital bed or the patients help us understand the torments of Rodolfo - who loves Mimi while at the same time suffering as he sees the illness and fears death and the inevitable separation... "
"Surprising, offbeat, even provocative. I had problems understanding what the staging was trying to say by showing both the medical environment of the 21st century and the romantic vision of Montmartre in the 19th century. But despite all that, it does make you think!"
(*The OperaDou Jury is made up of at least 12 professional classical musicians, dancers and seasoned opera & ballet afficionados who regularly meet at the "OperaDou" "Home Opera Theatre" in the south of France to review classical HD productions and share their opinions with a global audience).