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Superb Cast in an Old Favorite

New York
The Metropolitan Opera
09/23/2014 -  & December 1, 5, 10,* 13, 2014
Giacomo Puccini: La bohème
David Bizic (Marcello), Michael Fabiano (Rodolfo), Matthew Rose (Colline), Alessio Arduini (Schaunard), John Del Carlo (Benoit/Alcindoro), Angela Gheorghiu (Mimì), Susanna Phillips (Musetta)
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus, Riccardo Frizza (conductor)
Franco Zeffirelli (production and sets), Peter J. Hall (costumes), Gil Wechsler (lights)

A. Gheorghiu (© Marty Sohl)

La bohème has returned - again! After 33 year in the Met's repertoire, Franco Zeffirelli's production remains as fresh and colorful as ever, perhaps sparing it the fate of so many other Zeffirelli productions, which were marked for speedy replacement in the era of Peter Gelb. Almost aggressively traditional, it places the opera, set in the garrets of Paris in the 1830s, in, well, the garrets of Paris in the 1830s. Add a huge tableau populated with chorus and supernumeraries (not as populated as it used to be, but still) and one readily gets an idea of Met productions at their best.

Bohème has been a house favorite almost since it entered the Met's repertoire in 1900. It has appeared in 109 of the subsequent 115 seasons. Rare absence goes hand in hand with long performance runs. This year the revival of Zeffirelli's production immediately followed opening night and will enjoy a total of twelve performances over the first half of the season.

Despite the opera's moving plot of young love and loss, Bohème revivals very often attract limited artistic interest. Critics will roll their eyes at repetitive casting decisions, ho-hum conducting, and direction that looks as though it were written out on old, yellowing notepaper. Yet this time, the occasion was more noteworthy. Angela Gheorghiu, the greatest Mimì in the Met's recent memory, took the title role. The bloom that gave the voice such an advantage in Puccini roles at an early stage in her career has flown. But rather than leaving her at a disadvantage, she intelligently used the transition to bring out the part's cooler tones with true pathos. As Rodolfo, we were treated to young tenor sensation Michael Fabiano, whose appearance on the scene just a few years ago has already raised hopes worldwide. The voice is strong and stentorian, reaching deep into the music with an attractive, almost heroic timbre that resonated with apparent ease throughout the Met's vast hall. His introductory aria, in which he presents himself as a poor poet who writes and lives, drew an impressive and sustained ovation he well deserved.

Rising young talent was hardly limited to the tragic leads. David Bizic's strong Marcello and Susanna Phillips vampy Musetta brought out these foils in comic relief. Matthew Rose's Colline and Alessio Arduini's Schaunard rounded out the cast of young Bohemians. John Del Carlo continues his reign as the Met's reigning basso buffo in the dual roles of the landlord Benoit and Musetta's sugar daddy Alcindoro. Riccardo Frizza led an energetic performance.

Paul du Quenoy



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