26 June 2012

La Boheme at Glyndebourne

One of the things I like most about having a blog is that I can use it to remind me when I did things but this only works for the last six years.

So, while I know that I saw this production of La Boheme at Glyndebourne before I do not know when.

The programme notes says that it is a revival from 2000 so I must have seen it around then.

My memory of the earlier production was of exceptional singing from the two main male parts so this performance had something hard to live up to.

This was one of the times that I went with guests this year and that dictated the area that I sit in. and that's my excuse for sitting in £50 seats at the side which compares with a £230 top price and £75 for my preferred area.

On the plus side, Glyndebourne has refined its photography policy from "not in the auditorium" to "not during the performance" so I was able to take my usual picture from me seat with a clean conscience.

Some comments on the Glyndebourne website criticise the modern setting, which I find odd as it does not look that modern to me. It's certainly not contemporary.

The presence of a computer at one point may have suggested otherwise but that was the only lapse in the period portrayal.

The set worked very well allowing us to move between scenes smoothly and without too much fuss (mostly). It was all neatly done.

The Christmas celebrations went a little over the top for my taste and I am not sure that the story needed people juggling fire to make its point.

Luckily the staging's excess was limited to this one scene and was quickly forgiven then forgotten.

The story is what it is, and that is as classic an opera as you can get. Much as Swan Lake is the definitive ballet. It is thick with emotion and while you know that you'll be crying at the end you have to go through all the ups and downs of two relationships to get there.

Unfortunately the singing had to compete against my memories of the previous performance and while there was nothing particularly wrong with the two male leads they did not quite live up to aspirations.

The two female leads were up to the high mark and Mimi surpassed it. Colline, the tart with a heart, also acted her part very well and was utterly convincing.

I also liked Michael Sumuel's Schaunard very much. He has a very rich, strong and sweet voice that shocks on first hearing such is the surprise. His bass-baritone gave the sound some extra colour and I would have liked to have heard more of it. I'll have to take that up with Puccini one day.

Like La Cenerentola earlier in the season, La Boheme was Glyndebourne playing safe with a revival of a popular mainstream opera, and there is not a lot wrong with that. Glyndebourne has many strengths and is at its best when it plays to them and keeps it simple.

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