An Emotionally-Fraught Juggernaut: La Bohème At London Coliseum
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There must be something in the air: before this summer arrives, Londoners can see the heroines of Moulin Rouge!, La Traviata and two different takes on La Bohème all die of tuberculosis. Perhaps grim days breed grim theatre.
The fifth ENO revival of Jonathan Miller’s English language take on Giacomo Puccini’s classic opera sees Korean tenor David Junghoon Kim take on the lead male role of Rodolfo, a critic in 1930s Paris who falls hopelessly in love with Sinéad Campbell-Wallace’s Mimi. Alongside his merry band of proto-hipsters (including Charles Rice as Marcello and the wonderfully-named Benson Wilson as Schaunard), we’re taken on something of an emotional rollercoaster.
Kim’s performance lacks conviction at times but the chemistry between the pair is exquisite and we genuinely take to heart the euphoric highs and deeply saddening lows of their relationship. Louise Alder’s polyamorous Musetta is, as ever, the guilty pleasure here: seeing her bend men to her with biting wit and determination is always a treat.
In sharp contrast to the seriously underwhelming design for the ENO’s last production, Isabella Bywater’s set here is simply magnificent. It brings to life a depressing environment in which urban poverty and high unemployment are endemic with some relief provided by the hyper-convivial Café Momus. Amanda Holden’s translation is still lively and occasionally hilarious and, down in the pit, conductor Ben Glassberg does a commendable job of driving home the emotional essence of each scene.
These may be grim days but, with the return of quality productions such as this packing out houses, London’s theatreland is experiencing a welcome renaissance.
La Bohème, London Coliseum. Until 27 February 2022. Tickets from £10.
Last Updated 04 February 2022