Sowgandhika Krishnan reviews La Bohème, which was recently aired online on the Royal Opera House (ROH) website.
Who would have thought there would be a time when a show at the Royal Opera House would be viewed in another country? It’s the time of online shows! La Bohème (based on Henry Murger’s work) is one of the most beloved operas. It was aired online from 6th July to 17th July 2020 on the Royal Opera House website.
La Boheme looks at the trials and tribulations of two totally contrasting couples -Rodolfo and Mimì, Marcello and Musetta, and their turbulent journey. Rodolfo is a penniless poet while Mimì is a seamstress. Marcello is a struggling painter who has parted ways with Musetta.
Rodolfo meets his neighbour Mimì, and they fall in love instantly. A trip to the Parisian shopping arcades, bonds Rodolfo and Mimì’s love. Musetta walks into the shopping arcade with her rich suitor. Marcello is unable to hide his anger and jealousy, seeing Musetta with another man. Eventually, Marcello and Musetta reconcile. Rodolfo learns that Mimì is gravely ill. Since he cannot afford the medicine and care Mimì needs, he treats her harshly, in the hope she leaves him and finds a suitor who can provide her a better life. Mimì finds a rich suitor, but leaves him eventually and is found on the streets by Musetta in extremely bad health. Mimì returns to Rodolfo. They are joyfully reunited – but, despite the care of Rodolfo and his friends, Mimì dies.
The juxtaposition between the two couples and their love is striking. Musetta is misunderstood to be a woman who runs after money, but she is the one who finds Mimì and sells off her gold earrings, to provide money for Mimì’s care. The two men in contrast, seem helpless, resigned to fate, and unable to take care of the women in their lives. They don’t seem to do much to change things either.
The Opera opens in a dull, depressing, and cold attic room setting (Act1). This is followed by a brilliant shopping arcade set, a restaurant, and a pathway with streetlights (Act 2). The set transition happening with multiple artists present on stage is very well done. This is followed by another brilliant set – a little tavern surrounded by snow (Act 3), and it transitions back to the attic for the closing scene (Act 4). The sets add life and color to the scene and support the singing and emotions of the scene very well. As a viewer, one strongly feels the change in mood, pace, and energy.
Michael Fabiano (tenor), who plays Rodolfo, sounds a bit muffled, especially in comparison with Mariusz Kwiecień, who plays Marcello with gusto. Nicole Car as Mimì and Simona Mihai as Musetta do well as sopranos. Mimì steals the limelight in Act 1. They all bring in the right touch of body language and emotions to their scenes. The duet between Rodolfo and Mimì in the first part stands out, so does the portion showing the contrast between the two couples and their interaction with each other. The last scene is touching.
La Boheme has a lot of underlying layers hidden behind the simplified storyline and understated presentation. It is definitely worth a watch!
(all Pics Credit: ©ROH / Catherine Ashmore)
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