La Bohème (Netrebko)


Giacomo Puccini La Bohème opera to libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica. Staged 2012 by Damiano Michieletto at the Salzburg Festival. Stars Anna Netrebko (Mimi), Nino Machaidze (Musetta), Piotr Beczala (Rodolfo), Massimo Cavalletti (Marcello), Alessio Ardunini (Schaunard), Carlo Colombara (Colline), Davide Fersini (Benoît), Peter Kálmán (Alcindoro), Paul Schweinester, Steven Forster, Liviu Gheorghe Burz, Michael Wilder, and Martin Müller. Daniele Gatti conducts the Wiener Philharmoniker,  the Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor (Chorus Master: Ernst Raffelsberger), the Salzburger Festspiele und Theater Kinderchor (Chorus Master; Wolfgang Götz), and members of the Angelika Prokopp Sommerakademie of the Wiener Philharmoniker (stage music). Set design by Paolo Fantin; costumes by Carla Teti; lighting by Martin Gebhardt; dramatic advice by Kathrin Brunner; choreography by Nikolaos Lagousakos; directed for TV by Brian Large. Released 2012, disc has 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: C

This was a disappointment. Netrebko is now a bit chubby to handle Mimì in HD TV. Machaidze does not come across as very fetching, but I don't think it was her fault. The men, on the other hand, seems better suited for their roles except that they all look kind of alike and way too healthy. All the singing is good, and I can understand a lot in Italian quite well thanks to the good diction of the singers, the clear recording, and the nice Italian subtitles. The orchestra sounds wonderful and Brian Large takes advantage of all the bright lighting to give us beautifully vivid, sharp PQ. 

Alas, all this great talent is wasted on ugly sets, silly design, and weak directing of acting. For an example, you need look no further than the artwork on the disc package. There you see a tourist map of the famous Paris left bank with models about the size of doghouses of typical Paris buildings. Milling about are chorus members wearing odd-ball, overly bright modern clothes. The cast sits around on the buildings trying to act out the famous Café Momus scene. It's a complete mess. To a newcomer to the opera, it would be incomprehensible. To those who know the opera well, it's a bore because there's no way to tell the story in the libretto amidst all the inappropriate props.

We now have (May 2013) no fewer than 9 HDVDs of Bohème, and only one of these is really good (the Opus Arte with Inva Mula). There's still room for a great Bohème, but we don't particularly need any more mediocre productions.