Opera Review: La bohème

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By Jarred Tito

Date / Venue: Thursday September 13th, 2018 - ASB Theatre, Auckland

A breath taking, heartfelt love story that takes the singing levels of opera that dreams are made of and leaves me wanting more. There’s something about the NZ Opera and the quality of their productions that never ceases to amaze me. Their production of La Bohemecertainly possesses that quality in large amounts.

Like most operas, you can expect your fair amount of frolicking fun love and of course tragedy. “La Bohemeis no exception to this rule. The scene opens to find us in the living quarters of four bohemians struggling to make their way through a cold winter in France. It is Christmas Eve and Rodolfo, a poet, and Marcello, a painter, are freezing in theirattic apartment. Neither of them realise that they are about to embark on a love story that will affect them for the rest of their lives. It is here that Rodolfo meets his true love Mimi. Together they begin a romance that is both pure and strained but also sets the foundation foran operatic experience that is completely compelling and moving.

Rodolfo (tenor) played by Thomas Atkins of New Zealand and Mimi (soprano) by Marlena Devoe, also from New Zealand, perform their first duet that is absolutely stunning and mesmerising. I knew the story before seeing the opera but was still curious as to see how they would make it feel like the couple were truly in love in the first act. However it is not long before I can sense the chemistry between these two. I often leave the Opera with an admiration for the music, the performance, the stage set the orchestra, but I seldom leave the theatre feeling as though I have witnessed a true love story between a couple that truly seemto be in love. Whether it is the casting or perhaps the story itself? I’m not sure. But there is a sense of real love and chemistry between Rodolfo and Mimi throughout the performance which in my opinion takes the level of the opera to the very highest point. This presentation of “La Bohemeis one of the most moving and enjoyable operas that I can recall.

The other principal cast members include Nicholas Lester who plays Marcello, Amelia Berry who plays Musetta, Julien Van Mellaerts who plays Schaunardand Timothy Newton who plays Colline. The superb cast completes a very stunning, faultless performance.

As has come to be the expectation for the New Zealand Opera we cannot go past the set design, which is absolutely stunning. Although simplistic and minimalist in many ways, there is still something about the creativity, colour and design of the set that possesses the real Wow factor. Along with the costumes, the chorus and the lighting scape, everything feels so dreamy, like a playground for adults.

One cannot overlook the Auckland PhilharmoniOrchestra led by Tobias Ringborg (conductor) who in my opinion, delivers one of the most spectacular musical performance that I can remember ever seeingat the Aotea Centre.

It is a real marvel to say the very least. Enjoyable from the very first moment to the very last.

La bohème is performed at ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland - 13-23 September
And the Opera House, Wellington - 4-13 October
More information: www.nzopera.com