It’s over twenty years since Phyllida Lloyd’s innovative production of La Bohème was first performed by Opera North, now at the helm revival director Michael Barker-Caven brings it to the Lowry with a fresh young cast and some stylish staging.
Set in Paris’ Latin Quarter, we meet poverty stricken students Marcello (Duncan Rock) and Rodolfo (Ji-Min Park) trying to keep warm on a cold Christmas Eve, they’re later joined by roommates Colline, (Barnany Rea) and Schaunard (John Savournin) who with a little good fortune have managed to come by food, fuel and some funds to take the bohemian gang out to celebrate the festive season with their fellow townsfolk at Café Momus. Rodolfo decides to follow on later and as luck should have it while he is alone pretty neighbour, Mimi, (Anita Watson) whose candle has gone out on the stairway, knocks on the door in search of a light, Rodolfo relights it and their love affair begins. At Café Momus Marcello’s former sweetheart, Musetta, (Sky Ingram) makes her divaish entrance adding humour & fun to the piece and we see Marcello fall for her charms once again. Of course this being an opera there’s a sprinkling of tragedy along the way but for those who haven’t seen La Boheme I won’t spoil it.
Ji-Min Park makes an excellent Rodolfo, his voice is strong and smooth, he adds wit and fun to the role and plays the love struck student convincingly. Mimi, a little more serious is sweet and spirited and the two sound beautiful together.
German conductor Andreas Delfs does an exceptional job of leading his musicians who deliver Puccini’s score beautifully. Anthony Ward’s staging is fresh and vibrant, with more than a nod to pop art throughout, the stage is framed within a huge white square making it look like we’re watching the action via a live polaroid picture. The backdrop to Café Momus features a giant screen kiss, imposing and fabulous; we even have a tribute to Marilyn Monroe when Schaunard (John Savournin) flirts and flounces his way around the stage dressed as the icon.
La Boheme is a great show for theatre goers who want to dip their toe into Opera. Opera North excel at making Opera accessible to all, entertaining, poignant and playful La Boheme is the ideal introduction for newcomers looking to explore what Opera has to offer.
The Lowry, Salford Quays, until Saturday 17th May