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1991, Scottish opera, La Bohème (Schaunard)

La Bohème

1991_Boheme_SO

Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Librettists: Giacosa and Illica, after Henri Murger’s novel Scènes de la vie de Bohème
Venue and Dates: Scottish Opera, Theatre Royal, Glasgow
16 January 1991
Conductor: Marco Guidarini
Director: Elijah Moshinsky
Revival Director: David Walsh
Design: Michael Yeargan
Performers:
Rodolfo : Richard Greager
Mimi : Anne Williams-King
Marcello : Richard Paul Fink
Colline : Stephen Gadd
Schaunard : Simon Keenlyside
Benoit :
Alcindoro :
Parpignol :
Musetta : Sylvia Mitton
Custom House Sergeant :
Customs Official :
Notes: Please let us know if you have any further dates or other information for this production by emailing webmaster@simonkeenlyside.info

Soundbites

 Raymond Monelle, Opera magazine, March 1991

La Boheme. Scottish Opera at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow, January 16

The beautiful Elijah Moshinsky production of Boheme, with designs by Michael Yeargan, has long been in search of its ideal cast. There were high hopes for the current group of singers; Richard Greager’s full-hcarted Italianatc tcnor seemed like the right thing for Rodolfo, and Anne Williams-King, a fine actress as well as a decent and telling all-round soprano, was an obvious Mimi and had done well in this role with Opera North.

The sets-with the Act 1 garret perched halfway up the proscenium space as though it were being seen on television, and the Cafe Momus viewed from inside instead of outside-were as lovely as ever, though one began to tire of craning over the cafe walls to see Parpignol and his children, hidden in the street beyond. The producer of the revival, David Walsh, had got rid of some of the more absurd business; the umbrella-swords with handles that came off and turned into pistols, in the mock duel of the last act, had been rejected in favour of a simpler routine.

And indeed, this was an excellent cast. Richard Paul Fink brought an effortless baritone to the part of Marcello. Stephen Gadd sang Colline with a warm, intimate bass, Sylvia Mitton was noisy and vulgar as Musetta. In spite of all this, the performance took longer to settle down than any I can remember. The young Italian conductor Marco Guidarini decided that explosive zest was the order of the day, and went roaring off like a runaway train. Mr Greager panicked and missed several high notes. All lightness, space and charm went out of the rhythms; the delicate step of Puccini’s fragile tunes tripped and fell headlong. Act 2 was just as bad, and Musetta had no time to grin and sparkle.

There was, however, nothing wrong with Mr Greager, and when finally the singers, orchestra and conductor came to some agreement about speeds, poignancy took over. The stunningly physical acting of Miss Williams-King gave a harrowing edge to Act 4; on the point of death, she rose from the bed and stretched out both arms to Rodolfo. He rushed towards her in fearful delight, but, overcome, could only fall at her knees. It was a touch of fine old Thespian sentiment. And the moment of Mimi’s death was grimly apparent.

So here was an evening of musical problems, redeemed at the end by the protagonists’ dramatic rather than vocal gifts. If you’ve never cried at an opera, see this production.

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