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A Ho-Hum Return for a Met Warhorse

New York
Metropolitan Opera
11/23/2015 -  & November 27, 30, December 5, 9,* 12, 2015, January 6, 9, 13, 16, 19, 23, April 15, 21, 25, 29, May 5, 2016
Giacomo Puccini: La bohème
Levente Molnar (Marcello), Ramón Vargas (Rodolfo), Christian Van Horn (Colline), Alexey Lavrov (Schaunard), John Del Carlo (Benoît, Alcindoro), Barbara Frittoli (Mimi), Ana María Martinez (Musetta)
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus, Paolo Carignani (conductor)
Franco Zeffirelli (production and sets), Peter J. Hall (costumes), Gil Wechsler (lights)

R. Vargas, B. Frittoli (© Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera)

To say that La bohème has returned to the stage of the Metropolitan Opera is one of the great understatements of the musical universe. Featured in 110 of the past 116 seasons, Franco Zeffirelli’s big, loud, and timelessly realistic production seems invincible before general manager Peter Gelb’s determination to rid the house of its traditional productions. A tender story of love and loss set in romantic Paris, Bohème is an asset to any opera company. With 17 performances scheduled throughout this season, it is easy to see that the Met still realizes this.

This season’s revival promised some artistic interest with the return of soprano Barbara Frittoli in the role of the ill fated Mimi. A soprano once touted as the stuff of superstar potential, the voice has faded, leaving traces of fine technique and the occasional moving note, but not very much more. The first two acts, presented without an intermission, betrayed caution and something of a slow warm up. It was only in the third act that the more radiant tones emerged with a power approaching incandescence. Paired with the stalwart Met tenor Ramón Vargas, who delivers the stock gestures with enthusiasm after about two decades singing the part, the ensembles were heartwarming and worthy of attention. In his Met debut production, baritone Levente Molnar delivered a spirited Marcello, though his Musetta, the increasingly celebrated Ana María Martinez, brought a bit too much into her role’s clichéd coquetry.

John Del Carlo admirably extended his reign as the Met’s reigning basso buffo in the dual roles of the landlord Benoît and Musetta’s sugar daddy Alcindoro. The young baritone Alexey Lavrov made an uncommonly energetic and noteworthy contribution as the musician Schaunard. Christian Van Horn’s Colline, especially the character’s aria "Vecchia zimarra," portends a fine career for this talented young bass. Paolo Carignani led a competent performance that could have had more energy.

Paul du Quenoy



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