Reviewed by Nigel Chester
It’s always a pleasure to be attending the Theatre Royal in Nottingham, a great theatre with some of the best transport links in the country. The theatre bar has an extensive range of drinks, with hot and cold snacks and food available.
We settled into our comfortable seats to the sound of the Orchestra of Opera North tuning up.
The evenings performance was to be La Boheme, the original music by Giacomo Puccini, lyrics by Luigi Illica and Guiseppe Giacosa. Premiered in 1896, the opera remains justifiably popular.
Sung in Italian, this didn’t pose a problem, as translation was provided on two large screens at either side of the stage and surprisingly, didn’t prove to be a distraction from the performance on stage.
Based on director Phyllida Lloyd’s 1993 re-creation, but now in the capable hands of Revival Director, Michael Barker Caven), the scenes are set in the freezing garrets and thriving, bustling cafes and bars of 1960s Paris.
Christmas Eve, and friends, Rodolfo (Thomas Atkins), a poet, Marcello (Yuriy Yurchuk), a painter and Colline (Emyr Wyn Jones), a philosopher, burn Rodolfo’s writing to avoid freezing when musician, Schaunard (Henry Neill) arrives with the proceeds from his latest gig, food, drink and cash. Deciding that a drink in the bars is called for, they set off leaving Rodolfo to finish his latest work. A knock at the door and romance Is In the air as seamstress Mimi (Katie Bird) asks for a light for her candle.
The friends and Mimi join the throng at the street market and then drink and dine at the café, where Marcello’s former sweetheart Musetta (Samantha Clarke) arrives with her elderly, wealthy suitor Alcindoro. She has tired of him and plots to reunite with Marcello, leaving Alcindoro to pick up the bill.
Not wanting to give away the whole plot and finale, the performance moves along with humour, love, jealousy, separation and ultimately reconciliation and loss.
The orchestra performed faultlessly under the baton of Renato Balsadonna, bringing out the emotion of the music of Puccini.
Mimi (Katie Bird) and Musetta (Samantha Clarke) were both superb, their voices both refined and delicate but also stirring and emotional. Marcello (Yuriy Yurchuk) used his rich baritone to good effect and his acting was professional and convincing. Thomas Atkins (Tenor) as Rodolfo, hit all the notes, but, only as a minor point, to me seemed to lack a little in his projection, or was overshadowed by the orchestra in places.
The children of the Opera North Youth Company added liveliness and vigour to the street scene and I’m sure we will see some as performers in their own right in time.
The sets and costumes by designer Anthony Ward, whilst simple, seemed to give an authentic, if elaborated air of the poverty of the garrets and the exuberance of the streets and cafes.
Would I recommend the performance, yes, without hesitation.
Go if you can, be prepared to laugh out loud, be carried along by the humour and emotion, but, take a hanky.
Tickets cost from £16 to £65 (booking fees may apply).
Opera North’s La Boheme is at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham from 5-8 November 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.trch.co.uk or call the box office on 0115 989 5555.
Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall, Theatre Square, Nottingham, NG1 5ND