La Bohème

Opera Bohemia, a professional Scottish opera company, return for their fifth year at the Fringe with their critically acclaimed production of Puccini’s La Bohème. The production is small in scale but soaring in impact. The company take on the timeless love story with verve and passion. Accompanied only by a piano (Laura Baxter) and violin (Katie Jackson) and sung in Italian with English subtitles, this young emerging company have succeeded in creating a beautifully intimate piece of opera.

This production will appeal to both seasoned opera fans and is also ideal for those experiencing opera for the first time as Bohème offers a timeless story and some absolutely sublime music.

La Bohème is set in the depths of 1840s Paris in the Latin Quarter and follows the story of a set of young bohemian artists. Rodolfo, an impoverished poet, falls in love with Mimi, a young seamstress stricken with ill health. The opera is peopled with colourful characters such as the passionate painter Marcello, the temptress Musetta and the lecherous landlord. The emotional range is vast, beginning with the playful banter between the idealistic young men in their tiny apartment. They inject some nicely comic moments in the encounter with their landlord Benoit as they outwit his attempts to collect rent. All the voices in the production are strong, a remarkable feat for such a young cast. Catriona Clark’s Mimi deserves a special mention for her outstanding vocals, while Marie Claire Breen’s Musetta was roguishly dextrous in her performance.

The piano and single violin beautifully complement each other in the famous love arias and duet sung by Rodolfo and Mimi in the first half, Che gelida manina, Si, mi chiamano Mimi and O soave fanciulla. However the absence of an orchestra was noticeable in the opening aria of the opera, Questo Mar Rosso, which is certainly more powerful with the richness offered by the range of instrumental parts. Magnus Popplewell’s set was understated and effective, with a backdrop of corrugated iron suggesting the impecunious lodgings of the four young men. The costumes were wonderfully dapper, though the tweed and tailoring perhaps rather too fine for a set of bohemian students. The acting of the cast was superb throughout. The company succeeded in creating believable relationships which were powerfully moving as the opera drew to its tragic close.

This production will appeal to both seasoned opera fans and is also ideal for those experiencing opera for the first time as Bohème offers a timeless story and some absolutely sublime music. It was great to see such a packed hall at a fringe opera performance, which is a credit to the achievement of this exciting young company.

Reviews by Sarah Grice

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Opera Bohemia, Scotland's dynamic professional company, celebrates five years at the Fringe with performances of their original critically acclaimed production of Puccini's masterpiece. A star cast of Scottish singers from 'one of the most exciting new opera companies in the country' (Herald) includes Catriona Clark, Alistair Digges, Douglas Nairne, Marie Claire Breen, Ross McInroy, Christopher Nairne and Nicholas Cowie. This intimate production by John Wilkie, accompanied by piano (Laura Baxter) and violin (Katie Jackson) promises to be a memorable night for opera lovers and newcomers alike. 'This company is a wealth of extraordinary fresh talent' (List).