Left – Taryn Fiebig. Cover – the Cast. Photos – Branco Gaica.
The much-anticipated new production of La bohème directed by Gale Edwards was always going to be burdened with expectation. Giacomo Puccini’s classic is one of the most performed, watched and loved operas in the world. From its original 1830s Paris setting to Baz Lurhmann’s 1990 reincarnation, this quintessential love story has been reinvented and reinterpreted to within an inch of its life. But under the skillful direction of Edwards, and with the inspired 1930s Berlin setting, this new version soars with emotional intensity and vocal clarity. The political and economic upheavals underscoring the original story seemed perfectly placed in the pre-war years of 1930s Berlin where deprivation and decadence co-existed in equal measures.
Brian Thomson’s set takes us from the freezing garret to the austere tollgate via the high-glam Spiegeltent serving as a counterpoint to the extremes of wretched poverty and vulgar wealth. The glittering multi-leveled palace resplendent with courtesans in varying degrees of undress brought an energy and exuberance to the raucous Café Momus scenes. The effect successfully juxtaposed young love and naive optimism with newfound sexual freedoms and a menacing undercurrent of what was to come.
The young, dynamic Ji-Min Park as Rudolfo, a role he has sung at Covent Garden, was both powerful and vulnerable as the romantic but feckless poet. American Takesha Meshe Kizart brought a poignant vibrancy to the role of the doomed Mimi. Kizart’s rendering of Si, mi chiamano Mimi was deftly balanced and nuanced allowing her performance to build in Act 3 and 4. The audience was warned after interval that Kizart was unwell but there was no obvious impact on her magnificent voice, perhaps her character’s ailing health was fortuitous. While both Park and Kizart were outstanding in their individual performances, there was a lack of chemistry between their characters, which slightly undercut the final emotional payoff.
Not so, with the characters of Musetta and Marcello. Taryn Fiebig’s turn as the scheming Musetta was a knockout, showcasing one of Julie Lynch’s few opportunities for over-the-top glamour in her costumes, and delivering a stunning vocal performance replete with smoky spotlight and vintage microphone a la Marlene Dietrich. Another highlight was Jose Carbo’s performance as the charismatic painter Marcello, the controlled machismo and the rich tones of this brilliant baritone came together in a stand-out performance.
Opera Australia presents
by Giacomo Puccini
Director Gale Edwards
Venue: Sydney Opera House
Dates: 22 July – 24 October, 2011
Tickets: $95.00 – $297.00