Top positive review
28 people found this helpful
Highly recommended. A good example on DVD of opera in English translation
on 11 September 2010
Puccini translates perfectly well into English, and to object to it is just pedantry or snobbery. This production uses a new translation (by the other Amanda Holden) instead of the one that has given good service for a century with a few minor adjustments to remove some cringe-making constructions that used to marr so many old recordings, such as Mimi's 'I know not why' in her Act 1 aria. That this translation, which is often so completely different, works equally well is an indication of just how naturally Puccini goes into English.
Apart from anything else an alternative translation makes one more attentive. The old Pinkerton version can be heard complete only on the Chandos 'Opera in English' set. When La Boheme was first performed at Covent Garden in 1892 it was the same translation which was used.
The stage production is excellent and uses what looks like an authentic early 1930s Depression setting, as large scale as any I've seen in the second act. But the main achievement is to make the relationships between the characters so believable and involving.
Alfie Boe is good though his voice is a little thin to be a great Rodolpho, but his singing/acting carries it off. Melody Moore and Hanan Alattar as Mimi and Musetta are absolutely first class.
If I had to choose any opera to introduce someone to opera it would be La Boheme and it would also be this DVD. I would only warn any prospective buyer that the Mimi we have here is not the usual Romantic one but a slightly silly old-fashioned woman (reminding me of a type of older woman still common in the 50s and 60s as survivors of the pre-war years) perhaps 10 years older than Rodopho who is likewise not the usual Romantic poet but more of a slouchy literary 'bloke', probably writing mostly prose. I would also warn them that the production is very grey and black, reflecting the Depression years, although this is well offset by the Christmas atmosphere of the music and plot.
The conducting and orchestral playing is up there with the best, which I have confirmed by listening to it without the picture. Obviously this should be done through your hi-fi and not just through your TV - which of course is always how it should be heard WITH the picture too.
There aren't any uncomfortably close close-ups which means that it can be rewarding to watch on a large projector screen. But all the same my main criticism of the video production is that this last act goes in too close to the part of the set which constitutes the bohemians' living and working quarters, or at least the only part of their living space that we get to see. This is only the upper part of the stage set itself and has no three dimensional depth. It's quite small from the audience's point of view whereas we are always up close until the final tableau, and this means that we cannot help but be conscious of this lack of depth which is unduly emphasised by the large centrally placed chair occupied by the dying Mimi.