La Boheme at Opera Bastille Paris
It is difficult to know where to start with this outrageous performance of La Boheme, which included a dead Mimi, an invisible coat, a mime and several dying astronauts.
The German theatre Director, Claus Guth, is one of the most sought after and critically acclaimed directors in theatre and opera. However, in this performance in Paris he seems to have overreached himself. He staged the opera in a spaceship and changed the story so that Rodolfo , who was dying due to lack of oxygen, was reflecting on his past life with Mimi, who was already dead. It was all surreal.
Whilst the sets at times looked interesting and beautiful, the overall concept was a disaster. There is no doubt in the Directors right to use licence in the interpretation of an operatic work, but in trying to make the opera fit into his spaceship capsule, a lot of the important areas of identification to this work and Puccini’s original idea were lost in space.
There are many examples of this. The landlord, Benoit, is actually dead and his role is sung by the other principals. Mimi is already dead and is performed as an android and there was more than one of her, as there was more than one Rodolfo. The Café Momus scene was just a dream with a small girl carrying a red balloon, which was a theme in each of the following acts drawing on a similar theme in Spielberg’s film, Schindler’s List, which had the little girl in a red coat. All the drama between principals was either conducted offstage or in spacial concept without any sentiment or dramatic interplay. In fact, the whole production lacked anything that was touchy feely or emotional – with the singers giving us a stand and deliver performance – until strangely, at the very end of the opera when Rodolfo dies (Mimi is of course already dead) and you feel some real sympathy in his passing.
The audience were lucky to be able to enjoy a good musical evening - better with your eyes closed! The Conductor was Gustavo Dudamel, who’s interpretation of the music was unique and heart-warming at times, albeit that on the odd occasion the music slightly overwhelmed the singers and sometimes seemed somewhat lethargic.
The Mimi of Nicole Car replacing an indisposed Sonya Yoncheva was beautifully sung. She has not got a large voice and occasionally struggles at the very top, but she has the sweetest of middle and upper register and is a very suitable android. Perhaps the outstanding singer of the night was the Musetta of Aida Garifullina, who was full voiced and outstanding in her pole dancing antics. Atalla Ayan gave an underwhelming performance of Rodolfo. He has a small pretty Italianate voice, which got lost at the top. The Marcello was Artur Rucinski, the Schaunard was Alessio Arduini and the Colline was Roberto Tagliavini, all who sung well.
Unfortunately, the performance will be remembered for the spaceship production and with boos resounding around the opera house. The sooner this spaceship takes off and disappears the better.