The Welsh National Opera reproposes Annabel Arden’s 2012 production of La Bohème, set in the early 20th century. It is a straightforward interpretation of Puccini’s opera with a minimal and, at times, unimaginative setting. The WNO succeeds in offering a production that is skillful and entertaining. Strong performances bring to life the romance, tragedy, as well as comedic elements of the opera.
Rodolfo (Jung Soo Yun) and Marcello (Germán E Alcántara) are skint artists living in a cold attic in Paris. Rodolfo falls quickly in love with frail Mimì (Elin Pritchard), but their complicated relationship flounders under the pressures of poverty and Rodolfo’s guilt for making Mimì ill. In contrast, Marcello’s affair with coquettish Musetta (Aoife Miskelly) is passionate and often funny. The friends Schaunard (Mark Nathan) and Alcindoro (Alastaire Moore) add to the bittersweet comedy of the production.
Elin Pritchard, as Mimì, and Aoife Miskelly, as Musetta, shine giving by far the best performances. Pritchard, who was a superb Michäela in a past WNO’s Carmen, is graceful and powerful. She conveys a tender tragedy infused with love and loss. Aoife Miskelly, who previously delighted the audience as the Cunning Little Vixen, performs with brio, charm, and sophistication. Miskelly has a beautiful light in her voice.
Baritone Germán E Alcántara gives a powerful performance with. Jung Soo Yun has a beautiful tonality but limited range. Jung’s voice lacks the power needed to counter the orchestra. This is disappointing, especially after he gave a masterful performance in Les Vêpres Sicilliennes.
The quartet of the two couples Mimì and Rodolfo, and Musetta and Marcello is effective though underwhelming. Mark Nathan, as Schaunard, and Alastaire Moore, as Alcindoro, give robust performances holding the scene in Act Four.
The WNO’s choir is impeccable, as always, with a strong stage presence. The orchestra, under the baton of Lee Reynolds, gives a solid performance. This production of La Bohème is let done by the rehashing of a past production lacking in imaginative interpretation and an overly minimal setting, which here includes video projections of birds and of snow.