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Puccini La boheme

 

Mimi Lee Bisset

Musetta Gail Pearson

Rudolfo Dwayne Jones

Marcello Mark Stone

Schaunard William Berger

Colline Matthew Rose

 

Conductor Martin Fitzpatrick

Original Director Stephen Pimlott

Revival Director Ian Rutherford

Sets Tobias Hoheisel

Costumes Ingeborg Berneth

English National Opera 21 March 2007

 

The late and sadly missed Stephen Pimlott's production of La bohème for ENO is now well over 10 years old, but it still has the power to work its magic and draw the audience into the tragedy as it unfolds.

 

Tobias Hoheisel's all purpose single set eliminates scene change delays and emphasises that everything takes place within a small community.

 

For the last three performances in the current run ENO have taken the opportunity of changing the majority of the cast and giving several members of their Young Singers Programme a chance to take on significant roles without the rigours of a long run.

 

Lee Bisset really shone as Mimi, in a totally committed portrayal progressing from shyly flirtatious, through doubt and despair, to reconciliation and death. By the end of the opera she had clearly become so entrenched in her character that she looked quite disoriented as she took her curtain call, as though suddenly awakened from a dream.

 

Dwayne Jones has already sung Rudolfo in Australia , but last night he was struggling somewhat to keep everything in place. Within his comfort zone, he has an attractive Italianate sound that will stand him in good stead for the future and we will no doubt hear more from him next season.

 

The third member of the YSP joining the cast was William Berger (Schaunard) who exemplifies everything that is best about that programme. I well remember his ENO debut, as Masetto in 2004, when he was tentatively getting the feel of that big auditorium. Two and a half years on, having progressed through a variety of carefully chosen roles, he has emerged with a really rich baritone, full of warmth and character, and as a confident and intelligent actor.

 

Mark Stone (Marcello) and Matthew Rose (Colline) continued in their roles, the former in particularly good voice , whilst Gail Pearson was joining as a feisty Musetta, whilst. There were two extra unplanned substitutions: in the absence of the injured Robert Poulton, Roger Begley stepped in as a querulous Benoit, and Christopher Ross as a robustly entertaining Alcindoro.

 

ENO's Head of Music, Martin Fitzpatrick, was competent on the rostrum, but the arrival of their Musical Director Designate, Edward Gardner will be very welcome.

 

Serena Fenwick