Baz Luhrmann's La Bohème premiered in 1990, and became the biggest hit in the history of the Sydney Opera House. It also won rave reviews (see the New York Times, for example) on Broadway, still in Italian, 12 years later, with the UK's Alfie Boe as one of the Rodolfos. **THIS DVD is of the AUSTRALIAN OPERA cast and staging.
When I discovered this version of the well-known work I was sitting on a plastic chair in a cold classroom along with some 20-30 middle-aged Italians. It formed part of a Opera course being given by an Italian Professor of Music and this was his surprise 'finale' to Puccini, which followed a series of recordings made at Italian opera houses with almost exclusively Italian casts.
The prof observed that this was not an absolutely top-flight cast, "but they are young!" He praised their energy and their sincerity, then added "As to the language, of course they are Australians." We watched with Italian subtitles. The jury was out...
For the second half, the following week, everyone -- joined by a few school students -- dragged themselves back through some of the worst weather this year. We piled up saturated umbrellas in a corner, and returned to Mimi and Rodolfo in Paris. By the last moments, I was sniffing surreptitiously into a tissue (but determined to maintain British stiff upper lip), the school students -- even the boys -- had gone completely quiet, and someone across the room was audibly sobbing. The prof observed as the lights went up that Toscanini, the first Boheme conductor, had confessed to a tear at the end. Then he removed his own glasses and ostentatiously polished them.
So what was it about Luhrmann's version that could so thoroughly win over this hard-to-please audience? It's vivid, it's energetic, it's committed, it's credible. Yes, credible. Watch Rodolfo's face at the end -- that's complete sincerity. The cast are the right age for the parts, great natural-looking actors as well as good singers -- compare the video with Pavarotti and Freni, well! -- and, it has to be said, each and every one good-looking, and performing their socks off. Rodolfo's top notes can be a touch nasal at times, but hey!
The staging's not bad either. Luhrmann has been reported as saying that he chose to set his Boheme in 1957 because the general feel of the bohemian life of those days was a close match to that of Puccini's 1840s. Doing so also allowed him to show the bohemians as a vivid splash of colour in a monochrome world, as seen in 1950s black and white photographs -- which, in fact, works well.
DO see it, buy it. Watch it with friends and discuss, watch it alone but stock up with tissues. If you only see one Boheme, this has to be it -- it's what all subsequent performances should be measured against. It's unmissable, and I did not expect to be saying that.
[*** For more reviews -- all equally enthusiastic -- see the PAL video version, available on Amazon.]
This is knock-out opera - a production which I think Puccini himself would have applauded. It highlights how mediocre so many presentations with world class opera singers can be. Like cinema, opera is a multimedia art. And, like top class cinema, top class opera demands high standards in all departments. In this version due attention has been given to inventive and totally engaging acting as well as truly creative directing. Why, in the intervening twenty years, have we have we not seen much more of this level of directing and acting. This is an emotional and heart rending journey throughout the opera. Act 3 bristles with vitality and passion way beyond any production I've seen. This is a testament to youth and opera - surely a perfect partnership. A wonderful chemistry between Rodolfo and Mimi sweeps you up to share their every joy and heartache. And a brilliant supporting cast complete the whole experience. Well done, Puccini, for making this production possible!
Such a change from the several productions I have seen in the world's opera houses and on DVD. The principals look the part and the sparse production works very well. I found it difficult to believe that David Hobson was the same singer in the same year as the superb Orphee and Euridice DVD that I have just acquired - his range is impressive and both singing and acting excellent.. Cheryl Barker made a lovely Mimi and the intense concentration on each other of the two principals during the great arias of the first act was wonderful. The ending made me cry even more than it usually does!
An inspired production, well-staged and full of vitality. Puccini's wonderful music is beautifully sung and most convincingly acted by appropriately youthful and passionate romantic leads. You really do get caught up in the heart-rending emotion of it all, along with the cast. Very highly recommended, both as a perfect introduction to opera, and one that you will want to watch again and again. The facility for sub-titles is also very helpful for those who do not know the opera.
I really enjoyed this production of la boeme. I previously saw this opera on video many years ago. No longer having a video I had spent years trying to find a DVD. Previous attempts were in series 2 which I couldnt watch so well done. U
This is Boheme updated to the 1950s, add to that young singers who look, sing and really act their parts, and you have a recipe for success.
The main protagonists are dressed in bright colours, making them stand out against the all pervading grey and deep blue of everything else, even the crowds in Act 1 Scene 2 are kept in shadows. The stage sets are modern and minimalist, but somehow create the space needed, the Parisian square is amazingly effective.
Cheryl Barker and David Hobson are superb as the lovers Mimi and Rodolfo, I would love to see them in Traviata but unfortunately this appears to be the only recording of them. Christine Douglas is a fine, feisty Musetta that never goes over the top.
This is a Boheme that grabs you emotionally from the first note, and by the time Mimi dies most people will be in tears, it is simply that overwhelming.
The striking scene where Mimi and Rodolfo sing "Lovely maid in the moonlight" on a Parisian parapet standing in the middle of a neon sign "L'Amour" reminds us the producer is Baz Lurhmann who went on to make "Moulin Rouge".
This is one of those productions that redefines an opera, and no matter what your favourite version you should see this.
It's been years and years since I was last able to cry at Mimì's deathbed, but Luhrmann's production will do that to you. The Rodolfo sobbed loudly even after curtain, and was clearly deeply affected during curtain calls - now that's empathy! The staging as such is traditional enough, what Luhrmann achieves so wonderfully well is what goes on between the singers/actors. The fact that they are young, agile and sexy may have a little something to do with it, but beyond all that they create their own space with love and affection, and play their emotions out so naturalistically that they will almost embarrass you as the voyeur. When their hearts break, you should mind your ownk, that's how serious it gets.