Puccini’s classic tale of bohemian love, poverty, life and death in 19th-century Paris returns for another revival. Before Richard Jones’ production (here carefully revived by Julia Burbach) arrived in 2017 as a replacement for the long-running John Copley version, both patrons and management were nervous that Jones would push the piece too far into unfamiliar territory.
They need not have worried. While bringing some of his own distinctive humour into the piece, this is a largely traditional Bohème, visually pared down as befits a story set among the (literally) terminally poor, but allowing the second act to take place in a spectacularly staged Café Momus in which Aida Garifullina’s Musetta quite rightly brings the house down.
All of the central performances are strong, linking up successfully into the two couples who come together and then part only to come together again. Charles Castronovo is an energetic, lyrical Rodolfo, with plenty of power when needed. Simona Mihai sings Mimi expertly and brings emotional depth and subtlety to her characterisation.
Andrzej Filończyk is a volatile, boisterous Marcello, with Gyula Nagy and Peter Kellner providing strong support as a characterful, unusually corybantic Schaunard (well, he is a musician) and Colline respectively – the latter leaving his mark with his poignant Coat Song.
Old hands Jeremy White and Eddie Wade seize every opportunity as landlord Benoit and Musetta’s sugar-daddy Alcindoro.
It’s a good night, too, for the hard-working chorus and orchestra, while conductor Emmanuel Villaume ensures that Puccini’s flawlessly crafted score involves the audience from the first bar to the last.