La bohème

English Touring Opera

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton

****

MANY operas these days tend to be staged with minimal scenery, whether it’s through economy or modern thinking, who knows.

This production of Puccini’s classic love story follows that trend, and as it is set in a 19th century Parisian garret occupied by desperately poor artists, there is every reason for an atmosphere of poverty.

But you were left wondering if the ETO have gone too far, with boxes for the tenants to sit on, a strange sloping ‘wall’ and the weirdest stove I have ever seen. Even when the action moved to the Café Momus on Christmas Eve, there was little visual cheer.

And when the beautiful seamstress Mimi was seriously ill, a bed had to be made for her on four tea chest lookalikes, so while La bohème is considered the ideal ‘first opera’, any newcomers might be confused, though the snow scene worked well.

And happily, the quality of singing by entire cast certainly had the large audience warming to the occasion, and there were wonderful performances from Ilona Domnich (Mimi) and David Butt Philip, her poet lover Rodolfo who used the manuscript of a play he had written to warm up the stove and his pals in the grim garret.

Grant Doyle was excellent, too, as the painter Marcello in an enjoyable opera directed by James Conway and sung in Italian with English surtitles. The orchestra, conducted by Michael Roswell, did justice to the superb musical score at this one-nighter.

Paul Marston

13-04-15

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