Nov 19, 2008

La Bohème, Sydney 2008

Mimi - Antoinette Halloran
Rodolfo - Carlo Barricelli
Musetta - Amelia Farrugia
Marcello - José Carbo

Conductor - Ollivier-Philippe Cuneo
Director - Simon Phillips [1]
Set and costumes designer - Stephen Curtis

Opera Australia production
ABC2 live [2] broadcast from Sydney Opera House
October 29 2008 (closing night of the run)

Antoinette Halloran & Carlo Barricelli

The production

This production (this year's run was a revival from 2005) might be attractive to Australian audiences but not really to Europeans; why such a statement on my part? Because this kind of concept has been seen extensively throughout the Old Continent (quick word for Sarah Palin: Europe is also a continent, not a country) and is full of archetypes and regurgitated ideas.

Mix two and a half spoons of Christopher Alden (overall aesthetics) with one spoon of Robert Lepage (market scene at the end of act 2) and you'll have a pretty good idea of this production. Simon Phillips, interviewed during the intermission, spoke about his will to modernize the action and bring back the nostalgia each of us kind of feels for his students years.

If I sure can relate to the ugly costumes of Stephen Curtis (we all made huge mistakes in that department when we were 20, didn't we?) - especially Marcello's -, there's on the other hand no way I can identify with using lamps as guitars ersatz, nor with battling with garbage bags (although I must admit, Musetta trying to warm water in a mug by using a lighter was an interesting and funny detail - too bad it happened when Mimi was dying, because it would have deserved to be more than just a detail).  

The cast

Conductor Ollivier-Philippe Cuneo wisely admitted during the intermission his stamp on the score was "still developping". As a matter of fact, it seemed like he had no point on the score at all, delivering a passionless and lifeless performance from beginning to end (the last scene was especially dull).

The stage presence and acting skills of this young cast were as a whole very weak (except for Amalia Farrugia's Musetta); Antoinette Halloran as Mimi had limited facial expressions and was overall too cold for the role, José Carbo was all but credible, and Carlo Barricelli was clearly not expressive enough.

Both Carbo and Barricelli had issues with their high notes, on a technical level (although apparently better at the end of the run than at the beginning); Antoinette Holoran gave a decent performance, yet her vocal expressivity is a bit weak; Amelia Farrugia (picture left) is the only singer that provide some Italian touch to the role (both in phrasing, diction and her personal involvement in the role).

Overall, a broadcast of very limited interest.  

[1] artistic director of Melbourne Theatre Company
[2] with half an hour delay

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