A rather routine La bohème at Barcelona’s Liceu

SpainSpain Puccini, La bohème: Soloists, Chorus and Symphony Orchestra of the Liceu Opera Barcelona / Giampaolo Bisanti (conductor). Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona, 21 & 22.6.2021. (JMI)

Liceu Opera Barcelona’s La bohème (© David Ruano)

Direction – Àlex Ollé
Sets – Alfons Flores
Costumes – Lluc Castells
Lighting – Urs Schönebaum

Mimì – Anita Hartig / Adriana González
Rodolfo – Atalla Ayan / Giorgio Berrugi
Marcello – Roberto de Candia / Damián del Castillo
Musetta – Valentina Naforniţa / Katerina Tretyakova
Colline – Goderdzi Janelidze / Federico de Michelis
Schaunard – Toni Marsol / Josep-Ramon Olivé
Benoît / Alcindoro – Roberto Accurso

One of Giacomo Puccini’s masterpieces has come back to Barcelona ​​where it was last seen five years ago. The cast at that time was not brilliant, and the same could be said of the two offered on this occasion. It is no exaggeration to say that one expects better performances at the Liceu.

This Àlex Ollé production was premiered at the Teatro Regio in Turin in October 2016, and it has subsequently been seen at the Edinburgh Festival and the Rome Opera, among other venues. The action has been moved to the 1970s and 1980s, and is no longer set in an attic in Paris but on the outskirts of a big city. The bohemians live in an apartment in a large building surrounded by modern and rather impersonal structures. The plot is adequately narrated, with the novelty that Mimì does not die of consumption but of cancer, judging by the fact that in the final act she appears to be totally bald. Act III takes place in an open space with prostitutes, milkmaids and others waiting to enter the city.

The sets are appropriate visually although rather open and, in some cases, that affects the projection of voices. The stage direction works reasonably well.

Giampaolo Bisanti, who was in charge of the musical direction, had been seen in this house previously in Madama Butterfly and Macbeth. His conducting was uneven, I found, with a particularly routine and boring Act I and not improving much in the Latin Quarter. Things were better in the second part, and there was some emotion in his reading in Act IV. The Liceu Orchestra gave a good performance.

In the first cast, Mimì was interpreted by soprano Anita Hartig, whom one has seen in this theatre on previous occasions. Her acting was solid, and she was the best overall in the two casts. She fell somewhat below my expectations in Act I, where she did not shine in the always-awaited aria, ‘Mi chiamano Mimì’, but she improved and showed more emotion as the opera went on. The second Mimì, soprano Adriana González, was the winner two years ago of the Operalia Contest, one of the most important in this genre. She has an attractive voice and is able to produce beautiful pianissimo sounds at times.

Atalla Ayan as Rodolfo was disappointing, and lagged vocally behind my previous experiences with him. His voice is still appealing, but he has more difficulty reaching the audience than a few years ago. In fact, any rise in the sound from the pit made his voice practically inaudible. In the second cast, Giorgio Berrugi offered his attractive lyric tenor, well-suited to the demands of this character. He did have some serious problems with the high note in his duet with Mimì that closes Act I.

Marcello the painter was Italian baritone Roberto de Candia, who did his job competently. The second Marcello, Damián del Castillo, made an excellent impression with a beautiful, nicely projected voice that had no problem cutting through the sound of the orchestra.

Soprano Valentina Naforniţa as Musetta sang with ease and a certain brilliance in her famous waltz from the second act. Katerina Tretyakova also did well as Musetta though she was less spectacular in the Café Momus than her colleague in the first cast. She was especially good in the second part of the opera.

Bass Goderdzi Janelidze made a fine Colline, and impressed with the always anticipated ‘Vecchia zimarra’. Toni Marsol was correct in the part of Schaunard, as was Josep-Ramon Olivé in the second cast.

Jose M. Irurzun

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