La Bohème (Sølberg)

Giacomo Puccini La Bohème opera to libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica. Directed 2012 by Stefan Herheim at the Oslo Opera House. Stars Diego Torre (Rodolfo), Vasilij Ladjuk (Marcello), Marita Sølberg (Mimì), Jennifer Rowley (Musetta), Giovanni Battista Parodi (Colline), Espen Langvik (Schaunard) and Svein Erik Sagbråten (Benoit/Parpignol/Alcindoro/Toll Gate Keeper/Death). Eivind Gullberg Jensen conducts the Norwegian National Opera Orchestra, Norwegian National Opera Chorus, and Norwegian National Opera Children’s Chorus. Set and costume design by Heike Scheele; lighting design by Anders Poll; dramaturgy by Alexander Meier-Dörzenbach; directed for TV by Stein-Roger Bull; produced by NordicStories AS. Released 2012, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound.  Grade: B+

Gordon Smith showed this to his friends on the  L'OperaDou Jury. Here are edited portions of his report:

All  the jury members knew this opera well from traditional stagings.  So this radically updated production of La Bohème from Oslo made a major impact on them.  The sense of surprise – and even of shock – was almost palpable. All of them said this was the most memorable production of the work they had ever seen! They also spoke with a single voice when it came to the singing, commending “the very high all-round vocal standard.”

The “transposition” drew criticism from some Jury members with (1) having Mimì die in a hospital intensive care ward (of cancer) at the beginning of the opera and (2) having the presence of death appear in various guises later as Rodolfo then remembers his time with Mimì. This aspect of the production resulted in quite a passionate debate. Isn't that what opera is all about! 

Comments from OperaDou Jury members: 

“I very much liked this mixture of the fantastic (evoking Tim Burton and James Ensor) and romanticism. The orchestra and singers are perfectly in line with this. I gradually got involved and was very moved — although not immediately.”

“Surprising staging – to say the least! Makes it less romantic than a conventional production; but on the other hand, it comes across as more realistic and powerful. I was much more moved by the second half. Interpretation and singing first class. Beautiful images, very well filmed – and the sound was vivid and realistic.”

“Highly original. A way of presenting a well known opera in a modern way. This approach draws us into the suffering of terminal illness and the medical care that goes with it. The scenes where we see the hospital bed or the patients help us understand the torments of Rodolfo.  He loves Mimì while suffering as he sees her  illness and fearing her death and the inevitable separation.“

“Beautiful music making. The voices of Mimì and Rodolfo are magnificent, even if Rodolfo’s acting isn’t always as good as his singing. The staging is rather unsettling but very well done.”

“Clever staging presents the all-pervading fear of death that hangs over our existence.  The production admirably combines the theme of discovery of love with that of the relentlessness of death.”  

The Jury and Gordon gave this a  "B+". Thanks again to Gordon and his friends for their many contributions to this website!