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See latest reviews of other albums..., October 2016

PUCCINI, G.: Bohème (La) (Royal Opera House, 2009) (NTSC) OA1027D
PUCCINI, G.: Bohème (La) (Royal Opera House, 2009) (Blu-ray, HD) OABD7060D

This 2009 revival, in which conductor Andris Nelsons, music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, makes a distinguished Royal Opera House debut, features historically accurate designs by the late Julia Trevelyan Oman and an excellent cast headed by Russian soprano Hibla Gerzmava, delicately lyrical as the doomed Mimi, and young Romanian tenor Teodor Ilincăi as Rodolfo. …The acting is of a high standard throughout and the duets between Rodolfo and Mimi are as intensely moving as the composer intended. © 2016 Read complete review

Joseph K. So
La Scena Musicale, March 2011

Given that La Bohème is already so well represented on disc, does this new release with its relatively unknown cast have a chance against the competition? The answer, surprisingly, is yes. This December 2009 Covent Garden revival originally had star tenor Piotr Beczala as Rodolfo, but he took ill and was replaced after Act 2 by Romanian Teodor Ilincai. In this composite DVD taken from performances on Dec. 19 and 21, Ilincai’s medium sized voice with its pleasant timbre is a pleasure, an occasional flatness at the top notwithstanding. Russian soprano Hibla Gerzmava is a vocally winning Mimi, singing with a gorgeous, warm tone, though she looks too full figured to be a consumptive, and a tad matronly next to the boyish Ilincai. Kudos to soprano Inna Dukach (Musetta) for singing a lovely diminuendo B natural in “Quando m’en vo”. Gabriele Viviani is an engaging Marcello… The John Copley-Julia Trevelyan Oman warhorse is still lovely to look at despite its advanced age of 35 years. In fact, it’s rather nice to see this completely traditional production holding its own amidst a sea of radical re-imaginings, although for how much longer is anyone’s guess. The opulent colours on the video are lovely, and the recorded sound very fine. While Andris Nelsons conducts with energy…It is not the La Bohème for the ages, but very enjoyable, and it stands up well against the competition.

Charles H Parsons
American Record Guide, January 2011

This 2010 incarnation shows that not only has the production held up well, but it thrives with a new cast and conductor. The opera explodes with boisterous, youthful energy under Nelsons’s leadership. But the emotional high points are not neglected. Mimi’s death is fraught with emotion.

Gerzmava’s lush soprano is ravishing—rich and passionate—her acting rapturously emotional. The boyish-looking Ilincai’s fresh, handsome voice soars with Italian lyricism…plenty of good-humored, solid singing from Viviani…Imbrailo’s Schaunard is…with much more personality than usual.

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

John Terauds
Toronto Star, December 2010

TOP 5 OPERA DVDS OF 2010 – No. 3

A no-name cast aces this 2009 re-mount of Giacomo Puccini’s ever-popula La bohème at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Conductor Andris Nelsons makes the music glow.

John Steane
Gramophone, December 2010

The Covent Garden production has been with us since 1973. John Copley’s producing hand is sure in its touch, and Julia Trevelyan Oman’s sets have become so well loved that it will be a day of mourning when they are (as I suppose must happen sometime) chopped up and used for firewood. At Covent Garden many of the world-famous singers of the past 30 years have been inhabitants of that attic and clients of the thriving Café Momus. No illustrious names adorn the cast-list of December 2009, nor do they seem likely to be among the stars of the future, generally pleasing as they no doubt are. Andris Nelsons at Covent Garden conducts a well-paced performance.

In all matters of production the Covent Garden version is vastly preferable—the disincentive to buy being the existence of a better-sung performance, with Cotrubas, Schicoff and Allen, filmed in 1983 (NVC Arts). Here, the Mimì, Hibla Gerzmava, is clear in tone and clean in style, the Rodolfo (Teodor Ilincai) light and unforced but wanting richness. All act naturally and well, Jacques Imbrailo (the Schaunard) with panache. The principal pleasure lies in the re-viewing of these dearly loved sets and the memories they stir.

Eric Myers
Opera News, November 2010

PUCCINI, G.: Bohème (La) (Royal Opera House, 2009) (NTSC) OA1027D
PUCCINI, G.: Bohème (La) (Royal Opera House, 2009) (Blu-ray, HD) OABD7060D

John Copley’s beloved 1974 staging of La Bohème is still a fixture at the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden. It is currently one of the oldest productions remaining in the company’s repertory. A memorable performance of this production from the early 1980s is still available on DVD; it stars Ileana Cotrubas, Marilyn Zschau, Neil Shicoff, Thomas Allen, John Rawnsley and Gwynne Howell, conducted by Lamberto Gardelli.

Why, then, is the Royal Opera releasing this 2009 revival, with its no-name cast? Like many other houses, the Royal Opera often fills its Bohèmes nowadays with up-and-comers, relying on the opera itself to draw ticket-buyers in the absence of star power. But one wonders whether anyone who has seen or owns the previous version would want to buy this one as well, in which the same production is populated by Hibla Gerzmava, Inna Dukach, Teodor Ilincai and Gabriele Viviani.

If these were true stars of tomorrow, it might be a different story. But what we have instead is essentially a cast of proficient young singers, some of whom may develop into more interesting, individualistic performers in the future. The Mimì, Hibla Gerzmava, doesn’t really catch fire until Act III, when Puccini’s writing turns toward the dramatic and Gerzmava shows that she may have the makings of a good verismo singer. Her features and figure are not that of an ideal Mimì, but there is a temperament lurking here, and she phrases a fine “Addio.” Rodolfo is Romanian tenor Teodor Ilincai, who has a lovely, light tone, youthful ardency and supple dynamic control, but who doesn’t quite break your heart in Act IV the way a great Rodolfo must.

The casting of the Marcello and Musetta remains a mystery. Gabriele Viviani’s acting is stiff and wooden, his baritone merely serviceable. Inna Dukach has plenty of presence and physical charm as Musetta, but the small-voiced, strident sounds she emits render her “Qual dolore!” almost indistinguishable from the shriek of pain that precedes it. The other two Bohemians fare better. Kostas Smoriginas makes a memorable moment of his coat aria, singing with oaken tone and cradling the garment as if it were a beloved pet. Jacques Imbrailo’s Schaunard moves with grace and looks like he stepped out of a Daumier engraving; he gives a lively, committed performance marred, unfortunately, by the fact that his vocal production sounds unpleasantly constricted.

Jeremy White limns a delightful vocal and physical characterization as Benoit; Donald Maxwell gets a bit lost in the Act II hubbub as Alcindoro.

Conductor Andris Nelsons was making his Covent Garden début with this run of performances. Some found his conducting willfully idiosyncratic at times, but as evidenced here, he has a sure theatrical grasp of Puccini’s wondrous score.

Copley’s realistic production, with set and costume designs by Julia Trevelyan Oman, remains traditional and respectful. Brief interviews with Copley and Nelsons are included on the disc; neither man gives much insight into the creative process beyond letting us know what a genius Puccini was and how much they’ve always loved La Bohème.

Simon Thompson
MusicWeb International, September 2010

This release is a delight, a relay from Covent Garden which was, as far as I’m aware, broadcast live into cinemas last December. It features their current production which has been doing the rounds since the early 1970s, here revived by the original director himself. Copley’s production is traditional and beautiful, its chief concern being to tell the story directly. In December 2009 some criticised it for looking a little worn and shabby. Don’t believe a word of it! In the close-up of the screen it looks neat, fresh and as good as new, every piece of furniture and inch of set design serving the purpose of the drama nicely. The garret is well designed on two levels so that the most intimate action takes place closest to the audience, away from the busyness of the entries and exits. The Barrière d’Enfer looks beautiful with its warm looking tavern and gently falling snow. The Cafe Momus is uncrowded and easy on the eye, though the action in the street outside seems rather cramped. Costumes and sets place us firmly in Paris in the 1830s and there is nothing to detract from the basic narrative. Some might find this unimaginative, but there is a lot to be said for telling a story well and this is certainly one production (or, by extension, DVD) to which I would happily take a newcomer to opera.

The cast of singers are all young up-and-comings, but they are all the better for that. Bohème is all about the energy of youth and the excitement of young love, and this cast all look the part as well as sounding great. Hibla Gerzmava is a lovely Mimi, lyrical and vulnerable with a very beautiful voice: she is at her best during the parting duet of Act 3. Teodor Illincai is a very fine Rodolfo with a great ring to his voice and lots of youthful ardour. Strangely, though, Che gelida manina is probably the weakest point of his performance as he attacks from below the note—a shame as the top of his voice is thrilling. Inna Dukach is a characterful Musetta, her bright, slightly sharp soprano contrasting well with Gerzmava’s. Viviani is a warm, likeable Marcello, powerful in Acts 2 and 3 and very moving in the duet at the start of Act 4. Kostas Smorginias is of rather pale voice until the Raincoat aria which he sings with strength, and Jacques Imbrailo’s Schaunard is lovely of presence and voice. Benoit and Alcindoro are acted well by two stalwarts who love every minute of it.

Like his cast, conductor Andris Nelsons brings youth, vigour and energy to this ever-young score. The pulse of the first Act is infectious and the great crashes that begin and end Act 3 are razor-sharp. The orchestra play this most familiar of scores as if it were the only performance they would ever give, enthusiasm and virtuosity coming through in every bar. They are helped in this by production values of the highest order: the DTS sound, in particular, is outstandingly clear and well-separated without drawing attention to itself. The picture is also crystal-clear and the camera-work is effective and entirely non-intrusive.

Opus Arte’s usual high standards are maintained in the presentation and title menus, and there are brief interviews with Nelsons and Copley about the production. There are many Bohèmes available on DVD, but this one is as recommendable as any, and it feels good to be able to say this about such a home-grown product. Covent Garden have kept this production for so long because it works so well, and I think that anyone with this DVD in their collection would feel the same way.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, July 2010

John Copley’s production for London’s Royal Opera House has been one of the most attractive and realistic presentations of La Boheme it has been my pleasure to see. I would confess to being a traditionalist who likes to view opera as the composer intended, and here you can tick every box on your list of a visually ideal performance. The first act is a suitably shabby student attic in Paris of the 1830’s; the second act one of Covent Garden’s most elaborate sets, as it packs in the cafe and the street outside complete with a march past of soldiers; there is snow in the third act, and a nude painter’s model for the painter, Marcello, and the little bed on which Mimi dies. The cast also look their part, being young and attractive, but maybe a little too affluently dressed for their modest means. I did take the option of watching in Blue-Ray format, the colours and definition is well worth the little extra expense. Copley’s second act is packed full of action, the film director, Robin Lough, often keeping cameras well back so that we get the expanse of the cafe and its Christmas atmosphere - the film was appropriately made ‘live’ at Covent Garden in December of last year. Vocally it has that fresh element of youth, at times you could question the intonation of Teodor Illincai’s ardent Rodolfo, but he sings with a real beauty of tone, while he is matched by a Mimi from Hibla Gerzmava, who gives one of the most realistic death scenes to end a deeply moving portrait. Inna Dukach is a Musetta with looks to lure any man, her Alcindaro a nice cameo from Donald Maxwell. It would be difficult to find a better balanced quartet of Bohemians, Gabriele Viviani, Kostos Smoriginas and Jacques Imbrailo completing the team. The conductor, Andris Nelsons, is making a very auspicious company debut, drawing from his orchestra much detailed playing. Tempos allow the singers plenty of scope for moments of subtle expression. The disc is completed by the obligatory list of subtitles in English, French, German and Spanish.

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