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2000, Met New York, La bohème

La Bohème

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“Simon Keenlyside, as Marcello, was the best of the men.” New York Times

Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Librettists: Giacosa and Illica, after Henri Murger’s novel Scènes de la vie de Bohème
Venue and Dates: Metropolitan Opera House, New York
24, 29 March, 1, 5, 8, 11 April 2000
Conductor: Marco Armiliato
Director: (Franco Zefferelli’s production from 1981)
Performers:
Mimi: Leontina Vaduva
Musetta : Ainhoa Arteta
Rodolfo : Luis Lima
Marcello : Simon Keenlyside
Schaunard : Mel Ulrich
Colline : Egils Silins
Benoit: Thomas Hammons
Alcindoro: Thomas Hammons
Chorus and Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera
Notes:

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Soundbites

“’Boheme,’ You Know, Back Again, Via Zeffirelli” a review by James R. Oestreich for the New York Times,  March 28, 2000.

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A0CEFDA1E3DF93BA15750C0A9669C8B63

The crime of choice at the Metropolitan Opera — offstage, at least — used to be sneaking a tape recorder into the house to preserve the memory of a potentially thrilling performance. Some perpetrators compounded the misdemeanor by running off copies to turn an illicit profit.

On Friday evening, at the Met’s first performance of Puccini’s ”Boheme” this season, the illegal weapon most in evidence was the flash camera. That pretty much says it all about Franco Zeffirelli’s production, from 1981, and it has been said many times, many ways.

Indeed, it is enough (almost) to keep a critic humble, seeing this bloated extravaganza, which has absorbed more seemingly lethal blows than Rasputin, blithely surface year after year. There were many empty seats this time round, to be sure, but another revival has already been announced for next season.

The vast Parisian roofscape of Acts I and IV, in which — fortunately for viewers and listeners — our bohemians happen to occupy the highest garret, is by now taken more or less for granted. But delighted applause invariably greets not only the Latin Quarter of Act II, with all Paris, seemingly, out and about, but also the evocative snows of Act III. On Friday, even a horse was applauded for walking across the stage pulling a carriage. As cheap thrills go, both expensive and insipid.

How the Met and its patrons spend their money, of course, is their business. But the very expense of productions like this necessitates a long period of amortization, whatever the artistic merits. And in this case those merits are often hard to find. Against such a lavish backdrop, it is difficult for any singer of less than Pavarottian amplitude in both voice and physique even to register, let alone make, a vivid impression.

Certainly, there was not much of great musical moment going on here except for the typically stellar work of the Met chorus and orchestra. Marco Armiliato was a mercurial conductor, by turns driving the orchestra to virtuosic flights and allowing the singers a relaxed expansiveness, with rewards both ways.

Leontina Vaduva, a Romanian soprano who has recorded the role of Mimi for EMI, sang it pleasantly though hardly compellingly in her Met debut. Her tone tended to constrict on her highest notes.

Luis Lima, a familiar presence, returned to the role of Rodolfo with limited success. His quiet singing was problematic throughout, grainy at the start, unreliable later on, and he tended to ascend through a portamento that evoked heavy lifting.

Ainhoa Arteta, who has also sung Mimi at the Met, gave the strongest performance, as Musetta, with clear tone into the heights and a striking stage presence. Simon Keenlyside, as Marcello, was the best of the men, though lesser roles were also filled well by Egils Silins (Colline), Mel Ulrich (Schaunard) and Thomas Hammons (Benoit and Alcindoro).

The next performance is tomorrow evening. There may well be seats available.

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An extract from http://www.orfeonellarete.it/recensioni/cd.php/idcd=00061

Translated by Annie Shone

Four stars

“A true colour and an affectionate tone adequate to every situation is perceptible also in Simon Keenlyside (Marcello), whose voice seems to acquire more weight with the passing of time.”

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