La Boheme (PG)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner17/12/2008

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 100 mins

An attractively staged, beautifully performed and ultimately moving production, this is an absolute treat for opera fans, though it does drag a little towards the end.

What's it all about?
Directed by Robert Dornheim, La Boheme is a specially filmed version of Puccini's famous opera, starring opera sensations Rolando Villazon and Anna Netrebko. Set in mid 19th century Paris, the film opens in a threadbare attic apartment shared by four bohemian friends: passionate poet Rodolfo (Villazon), angry artist Marcello (George von Bergen), merry musician Schaunard (Adrian Erod) and prickly philosopher Colline (Vitaly Kovalyov).

When Rodolfo answers the door to his beautiful neighbour Mimi (Netrebko), the two fall madly in love and he takes her to meet his friends at Cafe Momus, where Marcello, in turn, has a fiery encounter with his flirtatious ex, Musetta (Nicole Cabell). However, when Mimi is revealed to have consumption (beware the Cough of Death!), Rodolfo is plunged into despair because he is powerless to help her.

The Good
Villazon and Netrebko are terrific in the lead roles, delivering powerful, passionate performances that show why they're two of the opera world's biggest stars. Indeed, for opera fans, La Boheme's primary appeal will be the opportunity to see the pair close-up; it's also intriguing to see the actors dispensing with grand theatrical gestures and conveying their emotions through facial expressions and subtle nuances (while still belting out the songs).

Dornheim does a decent job of opening out the production, aided by strong production design and some excellent snow work. There's even the odd amusing moment thrown up by the subtitles, such as when Marcello sings "That's my ex-girlfriend – first name, Musetta, second name, SLUT!"

The Bad
Unfortunately, the plot is almost as threadbare as the apartment, while you're also forced to conclude that Mimi brought her consumption on herself, what with all that wandering around in the snow with a low-cut dress and no coat on. Similarly, the final act drags considerably, despite the relatively short running time.

Worth seeing?
La Boheme is an engaging, well staged production that should appeal to opera fans and newcomers alike.

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Content updated: 19/10/2017 10:07

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