It seems hard to believe that even during the last century Puccini was greatly underrated by many as a classical composer and indeed his music was considered to be far too melodic. Fortunately today, Puccini's operas have ... more »found their rightful place in the repertoires of all the leading Opera companies around the world. This production of La Bohème remains true to the period and the libretto of the original score. The director of music, Jesús López Cobos, is to be congratulated for not making changes for changes sake. The cinematic technique employed, particularly for close ups, brings the viewers into the story almost as participants whilst at the same time the opera is clearly being performed on stage as one would expect. Inva Mula and Aquiles Machado give masterful performances as Mimi and Rodolfo, as do Laura Giordano, Fabio Maria Capitanucci and, indeed, the rest of the cast, bringing the characters to life and doing full justice to Puccini's magnificent score. A well known anecdote has it that the late King George V, when talking to Sir Thomas Beecham, remarked that La Bohème was his favourite opera as it was the shortest one he knew of. It is not, of course, the shortest opera but the quality of the music with its wonderful arias certainly makes the time pass all too quickly.« less
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 01/19/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I cannot tell you how many productions of 'La Bohème' I've seen. But I can assure you that I never see it live or on DVD, or hear it in a recording, without needing a Kleenex or three at its moving conclusion. Call me sentimental and without taste, but I believe Puccini (and his librettists Giacosa and Illica) have achieved one of the most nearly perfect operas ever written. There is not an extra note -- it's actually quite a short opera -- and there are few operas whose musical underscoring of the libretto's emotional content is better. Think, for instance, of the single loud chord interrupting the bohemians' hijinks in Act IV that announces the arrival of Musetta with her news that Mimì is downstairs, dying and unable to manage the stairs up to the bohemians' garret. Or, in the final scene, the two violins depicting Mimì's faltering heartbeat. And, as this Madrid Teatro Real production's stage director, Giancarlo del Monaco, says in his booklet interview (and in the excellent set of interviews, 'Reflections', on Disc II), 'Bohème' epitomizes cinematic treatment in music. Del Monaco takes advantage of that aspect of Puccini's music by giving us a very cinematic treatment onstage. Because of the specificity of Puccini's music one is rarely, even in the crowded stage scene of Act II, unaware of where the important action is; musically, it is always at the forefront. Consequently, del Monaco is able to give us an exquisitely thought-out staging that is both complex and truthful; there are many small details that enrich the narrative. The only misstep -- although I can see why he did it -- is at the end of the final scene when, after Mimì has died and Rodolfo has rushed to her bedside, the garret's walls fly up to reveal a beautifully lit backdrop of the streets of Paris into which Rodolfo then wanders, all alone, as if to show us what lies ahead for the grieving poet.
Musically, this production is top-notch. Jésus López Cobos is a superbly attentive opera conductor and his Teatro Real orchestra play beautifully. López Cobos manages the scherzando bits (e.g., the opening scenes of both Acts I and IV) and the emotionally resonant bits (e.g., Rodolfo/Mimì scene at the end of Act I, the entire Act III scene with the duet and quartet, the opera's final scene) with equal sensitivity and style. As for the singers, this is undoubtedly Inva Mula's show. She plays Mimì as not quite as naïve as often seen, and her portrayal of Mimì's physical deterioration and death are emotionally touching. And all with lovely control of her lovely voice. It does not hurt that she is a physically beautiful woman. Very nearly her equal is a tenor not previously known to me, Aquiles Machado, whose Italianate tenor is perfect for the role. He is a bit of a butterball, but that quickly becomes only a minor deficit. He is an artistic singer and a good actor who plumbs the emotional depths of the role.
Laura Giordano is a sexy-looking woman (with very good legs, which she shows to great advantage in Act II) whose soprano is not as rich as one might wish in Musetta's waltz song. Later, though, she comes into her own. Her acting is realistic and effective. Really effective is the big, handsome Marcello, Fabio Maria Capitanucci, whose robust yet subtle baritone is particularly effective in the latter part of the opera. His scene with Rodolfo in Act III is superb. David Menéndez is excellent as Schaunard; his physical agility in the horseplay scenes is particularly effective. Felipe Bou, in his thick glasses, makes a awkward but lovable philosopher, Colline. He makes the most of his little aria in Act IV, 'Addio, vecchia zimarra'.
The opera has been set in 1890s Paris, some sixty years or so after the time of Murger's 'Scènes de la vie bohème', and this makes absolutely no difference to the feel of the opera except that there are some proto-modern touches like an old-style typewriter and some electric lights in the Café Momus scene (but candlelight in the garret of the poor artists). The quite beautiful sets and costumes are by Michael Scott and the creative and very effective lighting, influenced by del Monaco's cinematic approach, is by Wolfgang von Zoubek. The stage actions of the extras (e.g., the drunk in Act III, stilt-walkers and jugglers in Act II) are inventive; I did wonder how the revealingly dressed prostitute outside the Act III inn did keep from freezing to death.
The DVD was taken from live performance and the final bows are greeted with long and very enthusiastic applause by the Teatro Real audience. This is a Region 0 DVD (playable in all regions) and the fine sound is in either stereo or surround sound. Videography (using eight cameramen, according to the credits) and editing are simply superb; Robin Lough's direction for television is above reproach.
This is a superior DVD that will be around a long time, deservedly so. I loved every minute of it.
Wonderful In Just About Every Respect
Stanley H. Nemeth | Garden Grove, CA United States | 04/13/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This Teatro Real performance, happily enough, is every bit as good as the preceding reviewer argues. It is distinguished by intelligence and beauty throughout. Nowhere present, then, are those simplistic, minimalist sets, that mindless mixing of eras, that seemingly deliberate ugliness in costumes, and that scarcely concealed contempt for composer and librettist which distinguish the by now wholly conventional Eurotrash productions (still posing, of course, as "cutting-edge") with which we are these days regularly regaled. Instead, this production features beautiful sets, costumes, and lighting, with only a mild updating intelligent and respectful director del Monaco uses to actually enrich, rather than violate, what Puccini and Illica have wrought. The production has as well wonderful conducting by Lopez Cobos and fine singing from Inva Mula, an affecting Mimi. Aquiles Machado, the Rodolpho, it's true, is a bit of a porker, but he sings Rodolpho in a refreshingly winning manner, one befitting a poet rather than a shouting tenor. What he can do, in other words, is sing softly when this is called for, while still being audible and maintaining a beautiful vocal line. Capitanucci's Marcello is also especially good, while no one in the remaining cast is less than pleasing to hear and watch. All in all, this performance is a breath of fresh air as regards current European opera performance and could well serve as a model for what may lie beyond the now wholly stale, nihilist productions of recent years."
Frank Elliott | Hendersonville, NC United States | 05/01/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Teatro Real of Madrid has gained my respect. This is a very nice production of La Boheme. The liner notes go into detail about how Puccini's music is less about music than about cinematic 'sound track'; indeed , his methods are emulated in so many films today. There are some new faces in this one; but no disappointment in passion, or talent. The romantic lead , Rodolfo ( Aqiiles Machado ) , as another reviewer pointed out, is distractingly roly poly; but it is all the more plausible that he might have been fortunate enough to have won only one love his entire existence on earth. Aquiles has an admirable tenor soto voce - one a lot of us wish we could toss off so effortlessly as he does. And the objet de amore, Mimi - what a bell like clarity for a chronically ill young woman ! Her tumultuous ovation is well deserved. One may ask, "why such a maudlin libretto to begin with"?...we know she is going to die in the end, yet still we hang on til the last dying breath. Indeed, why would any movie today cause us to shed crocodile tears at the end...even " Astronaut Farmer " , starring the ever intriguing Billy Bob Thornton, manages to yank tears from our quivering, foolish, forever believing in hope- faces . This one should bring a tear to your eye also.
The stageing , costuming, and making order out of chaos continuous action, drama, singing is quite the clockwork orange to witness. My only complaint, and a small one, similar to my complaint against many other stagings, like The Zeferelli production of Turandot..."Why so very much intense film noir darkness?" Is that dimly lit scene so very critical to the "cinema" played out before our squinting eyes straining to make out a facial gesture? I suppose we have to make sure the viewer feels a certain gloom and doom? ( same problem with the eternal slate on slate scenes in Turandot )...but , please= More contrast with gayly lit and then sombre would work better, in my view. Well..."small matter" I said. But I'm a painter not a musician, thus the emphasis on light and color, and framing of the shots. A truly talented cinematographer frames each shot so perfectly , that each frame should, and could make a framed still to hang on our walls. This one is close. It's a good production. If other reviewers have a favourite La Boheme, I'd like to hear about it, and take a look, myself. This is the only one I've seen. So what do I know?"
As good as it gets! Deserves more than 5 stars!
jjbraham | Mexico D.F. | 05/28/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I got to say that this is indeed the most beautiful production I have ever seen on DVD of ANY opera so far. As other reviews have pointed out Giancarlo Del Monaco manages to give us a beautiful cinematic version of La Boheme. He has all the details worked out, even many that I had never thought about. It all results in a deeply moving production, such as I'd never felt.
Inva Mula's Mimi is the highest vocal point of this production, not just by her excellent singing, but also by her understanding and feel of the character. I think only Freni could do it as well. Machado and Capitanucci are very good as Rodolfo and Marcello. Laura Giordano is surprisingly good and credible as Musetta. The rest of the cast is very good and I particularly liked the Colline of Felipe Bou. Jesus Lopez-Cobos direction is one of the most sensitive I've heard, perfect for this production.
The sound has to be heard to be believed, full and crystal clear. In short this is has the best picture, the best sound and the best direction of ANY DVD opera so far, while the singing is very good also.
Thank you Giancarlo.
*I really regret someone who obviously has no idea about opera, could subtract two stars just because the singers are not young. In fact the singers here are younger than usual, so he should stay with the Australian Boheme which is miles away from this one in every respect."
Three box of tissues performance
Marilyn Auerbach | 10/11/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Yes, I too, have seen many Bohemes, from the late 50s at the OLD Met in NYC, through many other performances. I try not to sit back and muse that the Mimi in this performance is not Renata Tebaldi, nor is Rodolfo quite as good as Luciano, or Bergonzi.... but let me tell you that this Blu Ray performance by this cast, musicians, staging, and all else that goes into a production of this magnitude, is over the top, From the moment the candle blows out in act one, the tears flow. I just thanked my wife for buying me the best present I could possibly get....You will love this production.
If ever you wondered about Blu Ray.. this disk will convert you. Superb Quality of picture, and the audio is perfect. It was recorded in 5.0 PCM or 2.0, neither of which has tricked out sound tracks for the Dolby Digital 5.1 discrete channel buff. It is brilliant, pure, sound, which is what I want to hear if I had the tickets for 5th row orchestra center. Thank you for reading my opinion. Fred Auerbach"