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Henson Keys
Opera News, November 2017

The glory of this production is the high-energy cast, particularly in the two leading roles. Tenor Joachim Bäckström is an ideal and endearing Rodolfo, ardent and marvelously vulnerable. Vocally, he seems more lyric than this role requires, but he nevertheless pours forth golden tone and bleats slightly only in the highest notes.

He’s matched by the splendid soprano Olesya Golovneva, the most touching Mimì of my many experiences with this opera. …she makes a marvelous transition through the scene as she falls for Rodolfo, returning what she lifted as Rodolfo talks to the offstage Bohemians. Golovneva brings a real fragility of body and spirit to her portrayal, using the many colors of her melodious soprano. Both Bäckström and Golovneva have a clear, personal and emotional connection to their roles, and one can feel the chemistry between them.

They are ably supported by the vivid characterizations from baritone Vladislav Sulimsky, an unusually affable Marcello, and Daniel Hällström, a strong, amusing and empathetic Schaunard.

Badea leads the fine Malmö Opera Orchestra in an emotional reading of the score, and he supports the singers beautifully. Badea finds all the passion in Puccini’s music but also knows when to play quietly. Phelan directs a detailed production, always with clear focus. For Bohème veterans and newbies, this production makes an excellent case for the timelessness of this work. Young love, poverty and tragedy happen in every era. © 2017 Opera News Read complete review

Allan Altman
American Record Guide, November 2017

Conductor Christian Badea sustains a feeling of intimacy, avoiding bombast and giving the singers room to breathe and to employ a range of dynamics without the fear of Puccini’s enveloping orchestration. As one expects in today’s world, the casts for both performances are young and handsome. What is rarer and refreshing is that their vocal timbres and temperaments also suit the characters they assume.

Among the standouts is Olesya Golovneva, a Russian soprano with a clean, effortless sound and just enough darkness to suggest the cloud that hangs over Mimi’s future. She also exudes a disarming emotional honesty, enhanced by soulful eyes that match Rodolfo’s description of her “occhi belli”. The hunky and thoroughly charming Björn Bürger sings Figaro with unforced tone and nuance. There are few baritones who handle the quick downward runs at the end of the ‘Dunque io son’ duet with such finesse, and this facility reinforces the character’s identity as someone who is in control of every situation. © 2017 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide

David Denton
David's Review Corner, July 2017

It is becoming increasingly difficult, wherever you go in the world, to find an opera production that even begins to resemble the composer’s original intentions. Seeing the name of the Irish stage director, Orpha Phelan, you would know that this Malmo Opera staging of Puccini’s La Boheme will be updated to the present time. It certainly starts out promisingly in a very cramped attic where we meet the four young men in the story together with the pretty young Mimi. Phelan then changes the second act from Puccini’s setting in the Cafe Momus to a fairground full of activity where we meet Musetta and her wealthy old man. I have not the slightest idea where we are supposed to be in the third act; while Phelan has the idea that in the fourth act the bailiffs have come to take away all of the furnishings of the attic, and Mimi is to die on a mattress left on the floor. Into this modern approach, much removed from Puccini’s 1830, comes a very enjoyable cast, the Swedish tenor, Joachim Bäckström, a vocally relaxed Rodolfo who also looks the part; Olesya Golovneva’s Mimi is a suitably unassuming young lady who falls in love, her unforced voice well suited to her portrayal, while as a vibrant foil we have the Ukrainian soprano, Maria Fontosh, who is everything a Musetta should be. Of the other Bohemians, the Hungarian bass, Miklós Sebestyén, is outstanding as Colline, his song to his favourite old coat drawing applause at the most inappropriate point. Vladislav Sulimsky and Daniel Hallstrom, as Marcello and Schaunard, join him in the revelry of the opening act, with Magnus Loftsson, a landlord looking much younger than we usually see. The Malmo Opera Orchestra and Chorus are very good under the baton of Christian Badea, and in its new garb, the whole production does make a direct connection with today’s younger generation. The filming and audio aspects mostly capture the spirit of the staging, and I much commend the musical aspects of the release. © 2017 David’s Review Corner

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