Dir. Renaud Docet, Theatre Royal, 16th – 20th May
La Bohème tells the love story of Rodolfo and Mimi, a painter and a seamstress, whose romance ends in the tragic death of the terminally ill Mimi. As the curtain rises and the play begins, a colourful, bustling Parisian flea-market is revealed, with crowds of tourists and locals dressed in rather modern clothing amid a charmingly old-fashioned set.
The modern details present in the first act, such as a child jamming to music from his headphones and a tourist’s selfie-stick, evoke laughter in the audience and link Puccini’s 122-year old opera to this day. The performance is beautifully staged, conveying a romantic and bohemian feel throughout, from Rodolfo’s charming apartment filled with antiques to the magical Christmas market with fairy lights, carousels, and soft snowfall.
Despite its tragic nature, the opera is filled with comedy and humour, often carried out by the group of four fun and free-spirited bohemian bachelors. The actors playing Rodolfo’s group of friends are charismatic and expressive, and their whimsical interaction is enjoyable to follow. Mimi, played by Hye-Youn Lee, repeatedly gives me goose bumps with her hauntingly beautiful and powerful voice, although her character is far from being the most interesting personality in the opera.
Out of the four acts, the first two ensure an interesting and action-packed show, and the humour, lovable characters and buzzing atmosphere keep me amused. However, the second act is so packed with action, that I feel I would need to see it at least three or four times to be able to appreciate all the details and drama playing out simultaneously. As the curtain goes down for the intermission, I am left overwhelmed. Thankfully the bustle calms down in the second half, which is more focused and easy to follow, leaving time to appreciate the subtleties of the settings and the actors’ performances. Though the plot isn’t mind-blowing, there is much to enjoy in La Bohème even for an opera amateur such as myself.