La Boheme at the Royal Opera House
January 11, 2013
So Wednesday is GBK, Thursday is ROH. I love my life.
Husband has tried to educate me over the years and introduced me to classical music and opera. The latter was something I had pegged as screechy warbling and not something I could spend an evening listening to. But gradually I have become accustomed to it and learnt which composers I like and which I can live without. Which operas I enjoy, and which leave me cold. And over the last ten years we have been lucky enough to see lots of opera as husband is very good at booking all these things. Otherwise it is too easy to come home from work on a cold Thursday evening and snuggle up in front of the TV.
So arrive in the Paul Hamlyn Hall first and get the obligatory bottle of champagne. This is the area that used to be the Covent Garden flower market and is a room I still adore. Like a huge conservatory. We have perfect seats in the stalls on this side of the House. So that means an easy and rapid path between the bar and our seats. The Opera House is so massive they have to start calling with 15 minutes to go as it can take people that long to get up the five storeys if they are sitting at the top and are in a ground floor bar or restaurant. Wherever you sit are great views and acoustics though. And what is so amazing is that these stars sing entirely without amplification. No microphones. Nothing. And if you could see the size of the palce they are filling, and over the top of a huge orchestra, it is truly inspiring.
La Boheme is one of my favourite operas. But first an announcement. This is never good news. Rolando Villazon (the bubbly Mexican tenor we have come to see) has bronchitis, so the guy he shares the part with will be singing tonight. We are disappointed. We deliberately booked to see Rolando as have enjoyed him before. He has superb physicality as an actor as well as a huge voice.
The enormous velvet curtains open to reveal the attic room the four impoverished artists share. It is not until Mimi arrives that my first tear falls. She has a beautiful clear voice that immediately connects with me. Wonderful. But the tenor is not igniting the same feelings . His voice is not rich and full enough, not big enough somehow and at times is overpowered by the ever fabulous orchestra. And that is really the over all review – that the production was good but not great. It didn’t have the magic needed. Mimi’s singing never really weakened, even as she was dying, but it was always beautiful. And I sobbed in the final scene as the score sweeps you into the abyss of hopelessness. It is such a fabulous feeling being completely overwhelmed by music. But only three and a half stars.