Get our free email newsletter with just one click

La Boheme review at Royal Opera House, London – ‘an unforgettable portrayal of Musetta’

Danielle de Niese in in La Boheme at Royal Opera House. Photo: Catherine Ashmore
by -

Puccini’s most popular work – indeed the most popular piece in the entire operatic repertoire these days – La Boheme returns in Richard Jones’ pared down production.

Pared down, that is, apart from the second act, when the Cafe Momus erupts in a whirl of hyperactivity, with three shopping arcades sliding on and off, and an unusually glamorous restaurant – surely far above the Bohemians’ most optimistic pockets – provides the evening with a brilliant set-piece of top-quality stagecraft.

Here, too, Danielle de Niese launches her unforgettable portrayal of Musetta, a complex, unhappy and in this scene distinctly drunk individual whose antics nevertheless have the audience eating out of her hand. She clearly understands the young woman in some depth, as later scenes reveal.

By her side Maria Agresta offers a classic Italian lyric soprano as Mimi, and like De Niese she shows us an individual of genuine strength, and not merely the kind of ‘little woman’ Puccini is still sometimes accused of portraying. Her tone is varied and sensitively deployed.

These high-quality performances are matched by American tenor Matthew Polenzani’s buoyant, stylishly sung Rodolfo and Etienne Dupuis’ firm but volatile Marcello. Duncan Rock’s happy-go-lucky Schaunard and Fernando Rado’s vocally solid and emotionally sombre Colline flesh out the Bohemian quartet. Smaller roles are in the safe hands of Jeremy White as a gullible Benoit and Wyn Pencarreg as a put-upon Alcindoro.

Nicola Luisotti conducts an interpretation that could do with keener rhythmic attack and more momentum generally, but which is often beautifully observed at a local level. He draws fine tone and shapely phrasing from the orchestra, while the chorus throw themselves into their big Act II scene with obvious relish.

La Boheme review at Royal Opera House, London – ‘Richard Jones’ successful new staging’

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
Richard Jones’ pared down production of La Boheme looks to be bedding in nicely