Review by Olivia Ruggiero
Enchanted. That is the word that I would use to describe this Opera Australia production of La Boheme currently playing at the Opera House. This evening is magical, and whilst there are no fantastical elements in Puccini’s opera, the story or this production, there is something uniquely dreamlike about the whole evening.
First and foremost we must address the wonderful score that Puccini has so delicately penned. Filled with the most luxurious, flowing and sumptuous arias, duets, quartets and ensemble numbers, Boheme is stunning. You could simply close your eyes and listen to the delicious music but then you would miss out of the most exquisite sets by Brian Thomson and costume design by Julie Lynch. The lavish colour and glamour of Lynch’s costumes is sublime and colours the set by Thomson so beautifully. John Rayment’s lighting design is the perfect accompaniment to the mood and tone set by the story, sets and portrayal by the cast.
Julie Lea Goodwin is a standout . She is a bright, dazzling, light on stage. Vivacious and electric, she moves with ease, she embodies Musetta and sings with only the purest tone and exemplary focus. The audience cannot help being moths to her flame in this production. From the second she takes to the stage until the final bow (of which there were a few) she captivates wholeheartedly. Iván Ayón Rivas plays a lighthearted, boyish, youthful and exuberant Rudolfo. He is pure, naïve and encapsulates the Bohemian spirit in his portrayal. He maintains beautifully sustained legato lines and his top notes soar. Haotian Qi compliments him well as Marcello – a fabulous portrayal and another exceptional voice. The intricacy of the relationships weaved in this production are so poignant. Theyare focused on which makes this production even more special. Alexander Sefton plays a subtly camp and fun Schunard complimenting the slightly more worn Colline portrayed by Richard Anderson. The only oddity in this production seems to be Karah Son who doesn’t quite gel with the rest of the cast. It’s true that her tone is beautiful and warm, and she sings Puccini’s score with grace but there is something about her portrayal that doesn’t quite feel natural against her colleagues.
Michelangelo Mazza passionately conducts the Opera Australia Orchestra. He is a joy to watch, miming the words to the arias as he conducts with gusto and this orchestra soars under his baton. His vivacity comes through in every notes. You can feel the joy vibrating from the pit. The Opera Australia Chorus is the same, although they don’t have an astronomical amount to do in this production, as always, they are flawless when onstage. I am very much looking forward to their production of Chorus upcoming at the Opera House next month.
Revival director Shaun Rennie has done a fabulous job with the production of La Boheme. He brings an authentic, joyful spin to the tale, that in its darker moments, still hits home and leaves you on the edge of your seat, begging for more. If you’re looking to be swept up in the magic of Opera, then this is the production for you.
Image Credit: Opera Australia