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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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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.
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on 1 December 2011
Pay no heed to the 1 star reviews. I own many recordings and videos of La Boheme and this one is up there with the best of them. Congratulations to Jonathan Miller for a production that is modern but still has that authentic feel of the original about it. The excellent sets and costumes are France circa 1930.

Amanda Holden's translation into English is extremely good. I have never been a fan of Opera that is sung in a language other than what the Composer intended, but when it is done as well as this it has changed my prejudices. Similarly, Ingmar Bergman's Magic Flute which was sung in Swedish is just wonderful.

I really liked the camera work which refrained from unnecessary close-ups. The images are clear without being overly sharp. I find it doesn't add to the performance to see the singers' sweaty pores or facial hair or spray emanating from their mouths.

I notice one reviewer complained about the de-saturation of the image, I believe this was intentional as this gives the picture a simple unadorned 1930's look.

The ENO Orchestra and Chorus were excellent. The principals were perfect in their singing and acting.

American Lyric Soprano, Melody Moore brought a different dimension to Mimi that I had never seen before. A mature woman who is not the young schemer that she is usually portrayed as; but a woman who is genuinely in love and that also understands the fleeting nature and fragility of love. I found her performance heartbreaking, her singing and phrasing were outstanding.

For me, a good performance of La Boheme will always bring a tear to my eyes and when the final bars of this performance were played; my eyes were no longer dry.

Unlike the reviewer who described his disc as a "disaster", I could find no fault with my Blu-ray. (I must point out that my Blu-ray is an All Regions disc that was made in the U.S. and distributed by Kultur International Films Ltd. So perhaps there is a difference between the European release other than the sub-titles. The U.S. release has English sub-titles only.)

In all aspects, I deem this to be a 5 star performance and disc.
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on 9 April 2011
I read a product description where it says "Alfie Boe's slightly earnest, boyish charm was through and through honest, from start to tragic finish.....the intensity and truthfulness he communicates is irresistible." This is so true. His portrayal of Rodolfo is brilliant. I don't want to give away the ending, but his final scenes are so real, so believable, and the intense emotion he is feeling pulls at your heart strings. I have never really been an opera fan before, but Alfie Boe has broadened my horizons. La Boheme is a very famous opera, and this version is special because it has Alfie Boe in it. I usually sing his praises because of his beautiful voice and his charm & wonderful personality. His performance in this play, along with his amazing performance as Jean Valjean in the Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert DVD, show that he is also a gifted actor. If you're an Alfie Boe fan, you HAVE to buy this DVD!
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on 10 January 2014
This updated version is set in the 1930s and the sets and costumes are appropriate. The updating however does not add anything to the story. I still prefer more traditional versions. The English libretto is pretty good, but I still prefer the vowels in the native language.
Alfie Boe is pretty good as Rodolfo, but Roland Wood is a bit too wavery on his long notes as Marcello for my liking. The other two characters of the friends lie in between, quite adequate for the job.
The garrett set is quite appropriately bleak and cold, I quite like it. When Melody Moore arrives the aspect changes, she has a richer voice than most Mimis, and though she is I believe classed as soprano, she sounds more of a Mezzo to me. She really grabs my attention, and gives the act a great lift. When Boe and Moore sing the acts final passionate duet, it is a real showstopper.
The act 2 set is also good, a cafe opens onto the street, and the crowd scene before the main action is rather well done. The highlight of this act should be Musettas waltz song, but Hanan Alattar is brash rather than coquettish, her voice is too shrill for my taste, and she is far too dominating in the ensemble.
Act 3 has an extremely good street set, and a nice touch is the casual comings and goings. Our four lead characters continue in the moulds as previously described, with Moore head and shoulders above the others and Alattar on the shrill side.
Back to the garrett for act 4, now bright with spring sunshine. The four male leads have some fun until the entrance of the two girls. Moore makes a very moving departure, and even Alattar tones it down a bit.
Of the five versions in my library I rate it fourth, as the Villazon film version does not quite gel.
The booklet is a bit sparse with only a couple of sentences synopsis for each act. The cast list is on the sleeve cover, and the inividual arias etc do not have timings or character listings.
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on 15 March 2011
Missed seeing La Boheme live with Alfie Boe and thought I would never get the chance but came upon this DVD. Probably better as I could only have afforded a cheap seat and there are closeups of all the singers and set. Alfie Boe has such a wonderful, clear, sweet tenor voice that the words are very easy to understand (I am a fan I have to admit). Enjoyed the performances of all the other singers, so glad ENO decided to put it out on DVD.
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on 20 August 2011
Firstly, my copy has numerous momentary breaks in the sound track. Next, although this is a Blu ray disc there is no way this was filmed in HD.
Then we have this awful colour desaturation effect, who ever thought that up should look for alternative employment. Alfie Boe is about the only character that gives this production any credence, Mimi has no resemblance to the Mimi I have loved in traditional productions of this opera. I managed to endure 58 minutes of this and then gave up.
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on 20 November 2013
I've never seen a full operatic production & only discovered opera because of Alfie Boe!! Well this is an absolutely amazing show. The whole cast are faultless in their singing & performances. Alfie Boe is wonderful & has opened up a whole new genre of music for me. As it's sung in English you can follow the storyline with clarity & get to know the characters & become totally immersed in it. I loved it, would highly recommend viewing. I hope more of Alfie Boe's operatic performances are released in the future. He's at his best singing opera. Fabulous!!!!!
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on 14 June 2014
I'm an avid Alfie Boe fan and was thrilled to be able to hear his "operatic voice" from early in his career. Just wish I could have seen the show on Broadway - it's a shame they didn't film it.
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on 10 August 2013
This is excellent. Deeply moving, realistic, not melodramatic - the emotion is authentic, not spoon-fed. Agreed Alfie Boe's voice is not really big enough, but the quality of his acting makes up the shortfall. I saw this production at the ENO earlier this year and extra detail has been added - I would recommend seeing it live.
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on 27 January 2016
Whilst this production is set in the 1930's it works well and the english translation is exceptionally good.
However the definition of the picture is well below what is normal for a DVD and is visibly unsatisfactory on a modern TV with a screen of 40" plus.
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