Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Monday 11th November, 2013
Force of nature Ellen Kent brings her production of Puccini’s romantic love story to Wolverhampton (and around the country) in this lavish version that contains a cast of superb singers, hand-picked from all over Europe.
As poet Rodolfo, Sorin Lupu delights with his tenor as clear as a brass bell. He is more than matched by a delicately beautiful Mimi – Elena Dee is remarkable. Of course it’s a paradox of the role that the frail young thing dying of consumption is able to belt out with such power, but that’s opera for you.
Rodolfo’s buddies are a fine ensemble. Their comic playing in the opening act (in which my Italian was stretched beyond its limit due to a glitch with the surtitles) is actually amusing. This lot are poor but by God they are also happy.
The second act with its aimlessly milling crowd is a bit twee, as the chorus nod and smile to each other and do little else. More could be made of Parpignol the toymaker’s brief appearance. He is included to represent something beyond the picturesque. Director Ellen Kent needs to decide what that is. That said, the main players continue to be superb, with the addition of Ecaterina Danu’s Musetta, pretty in pink and having all the best tunes. There is love, life, death, and even snow. Although you might know what’s coming (you don’t need to be psychic to guess) it’s a moving finale, dramatically presented by a strong cast.
Above all, Puccini’s score is the star and here it is very well served by the singers and conductor Nicolae Dohotaru. Delightful on the ear and pleasant on the eye, this Boheme reminds us there is humanity in even the lowliest, most impoverished people – something that certain sectors of our society need to realise.