Pint-sized British soprano Mary Plazas has played the role of Mimi many times and brought a wealth of experience to the role, her mouse-like appearance belying a remarkably large voice. Jorge Lopez-Yanez, the artist director of Mexico City Opera as well as a veteran Rodolfo, was well-matched for Plazas, although some of the romantic scenes were not entirely convincing.
What was lacking between Mimi and Rudolfo was made up for by Musetta and Marcello, who played out their sexually-charged scenes with flair. Elisa Wilson did a fantastic job as the lusty Musetta, captivating the audience with her vibrancy and risqué moves.
Director Simon Phillip’s choice of setting was an interesting one that visually injected new life into the opera. Sydney’s western suburbs in the 1980s worked surprisingly well with the original script and provided humorous moments such as the Star Wars reference and the iconic beanbag. The beanbag in particular was put to excellent effect - it served as both a symbol of love/lust and of death - ultimately used as Mimi’s deathbed.
The market set of the second scene was the standout set. The artistic direction appeared to have been “keep everything moving” and they certainly achieved this - there was a sense of chaotic, colourful, non-stop action throughout. The use of the children’s opera was a charming addition to the performance and they were delightful to watch.
The romanticisation of the bohemian lifestyle is one of the opera’s enduring themes and one that the audience probably enjoyed watching for antithetical reasons - both for its otherness and perhaps for its evocation of memories of student years, when some may have also skimped on food and been desperately in love.
And yet, Musetta sings of the tragedy of the bohemian lifestyle as one of “all illusions and utopias”. Jorge Lopez-Yanez’s performance was strongest at the poignant close of the opera as he wept over Mimi's body. When the curtains had fallen and people were starting to rise from their seats and filter out of the theatre, I overheard the man next to me confess to his wife that he had had a teary moment at the end. I had to admit the same.
West Australian Opera presents
Venue: His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth
Dates: October 27, 30 and November 1, 3, 6, 8, 10
Bookings: (08) 9484 1133 Monday to Friday