Despite the pandemic, Puccini’s La Bohème was a lovely evening at the Royal Opera House.

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Despite the pandemic, Puccini’s La Bohème was a lovely evening at the Royal Opera House.

I have to admit that my expectations for Richard Jones’ rendition of Puccini’s La Bohème were not very high.

Of course, a visit to the Royal Opera House is always wonderful, but I’ve seen this opera many times and this specific staging twice before, so I wasn’t expecting anything extraordinary this time, especially with the Covid restrictions in place. I could not have been more mistaken. The young cast was outstanding, the pandemic-related changes were thoughtful and carefully implemented, and the reduction in orchestra size needed by social distance laws improved the intensity of the performance, particularly in the last, emotionally intense act.

Apart from the principal roles of Mimi (gloriously sung and acted by Russian soprano Anna Princeva) and Rodolfo (powerfully sung and acted by American tenor Joshua Guerrero), the drama of the tragic love story is cleverly contrasted by the carefree life of Rodolfo’s fellow artists, Marcello (Boris Pinkhasovich), Schaunard (Cody Quattlebaum), and Rodolfo’s (played with glorious abandon by the wonderful Danielle de Niese).

Musetta’s achievement of removing her underwear and waving them around while singing and dancing on the tables at Cafe Momus has to be seen to be believed, and all three of Rodolfo’s flatmates bring their own stunning originality to the parts. De Niese’s performance would win an operatic Oscar for best supporting actress hands down (and underwear).

Dan Dooner, the Adaptation Director, deserves special recognition for making the required alterations to Richard Jones’ production, which included reducing a big crowd scene in the second act to a much smaller affair, which he handled extremely wisely and efficiently.

Renato Balsadonna also performed admirably as conductor of the smaller orchestra.

After a perfect 12-year career as Chorus Director at the Royal Opera, he brought out the best in Puccini’s magnificent music, as one could anticipate.

Finally, I must mention one opera aria that, up until now, has almost always disappointed me. Colline sings a sorrowful farewell to his overcoat, which he is ready to sell to buy Mimi’s medicine, in the final tear-jerking act.

This is frequently regarded as a close call. “Brinkwire News in Condensed Form.”

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