Welsh National Opera’s La boheme Review – A New Production

My husband and I had the good fortune to be in Cardiff for the Welsh National Opera’s opening production of La bohème at Wales Millennium Centre Lyric Opera of Chicago is our usual location for season openings so we were delighted to have the chance to acquaint ourselves with Welsh National Opera, and the chance to see La bohème, no less.  And what an amazing production, it was.


Talking with an opera lover during a performance of Opera Unmasked”at the Cardiff Central Library, I mentioned the upcoming La bohème performance, which he was not planning to attend.  “She dies, you know”, ( that is Mimi) he said.  That is a very short version of the opera.


Welsh National Opera Website says it this way:

“Love at first sight: Mimì and Rudolfo meet on Christmas Eve, and instantly fall in love. Their happiness is short lived. Mimì’s health deteriorates and to make matters worse she must deal with Rodolfo’s growing jealousy. Their friends, Musetta and Marcello rekindle their love for each other. However, they too quickly realise that they can’t live with or without each other. By spring both couples will have to come to terms with the fact that love cannot conquer all.


If you have experienced La bohème before, this major new production by Annabel Arden, set in the elegance of Edwardian Paris, will allow you to see this great opera with new eyes. If this is your first La bohème, this is the perfect opportunity to experience one of the greatest love stories ever sung.”


The world premiere performance of La bohème was in Turin on 1 February 1896 at the Teatro Regio and conducted by the young Arturo Toscanini. Since then, La bohème has become part of the standard Italian opera repertory and is the fourth most frequently performed opera worldwide. The four act opera by Giacomo Puccini with text by Guiseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica is based on a book by Henry Murger, Scenes de la vie bohème and the play La vie de Bohème depicting student life.


When we entered the Donald Gordon Theatre, the main theatre at Cardiff Millennium Centre we could not believe that it has 1,897 seats.  Its design and use of wood create a warm, intimate feeling and it is beautiful.  The acoustics were wonderful.  In addition the centre houses the national orchestra and opera, dance, theatre and literature companies, a total of eight arts organisations in residence and has the BBC Hoddinott Hall seating 350 and the Weston Studio Theatre seating 250.

Because La bohème is so popular many opera goers may think that they have already seen it and not take advantage of seeing it yet, again.  What a mistake they would be making because this production is certainly unlike any other I have seen.  It had a quality beyond the perfect performances of the entire cast both in terms of the blend of voices in the exquisite arias one of the other, the convincing acting, the children’s chorus, the snow in the third act, and the choreography.  There was a factor beyond the fantastic sets, staging, lighting and the orchestra.

There was an intimacy that was compelling and a sense of being a part of what was happening on stage, a seamless flow, t hat brought the viewer into the action on the stage and resulted in intense emotion. I wondered if this involvement was enhanced by the unique curtain effect that was designed especially for this production.

I have not seen the Welsh National Opera previously but believed that this had to be an outstanding production for any company. I spoke with a local Cardiff reviewer who has been reviewing the Welsh National Opera for 10 years.  She said this was one of the best productions she had seen.  She also said the Welsh National Opera frequently wins prizes for their outstanding work.


Well, it is true that Mimi dies but the two plus hours of amazing music and theatre before she does should not be missed.


Cast includes:
Mimì: Anita Hartig (1 - 15 June ex 8 & 14 June) Giselle Allen (8 & 14 June; 8 Sept - 1 Dec ex 2 & 23 Nov); Michelle Walton (2 & 23 Nov)
Rodolfo: Alex Vicens (1 - 15 June ex 8 & 14 June; 8 Sept - 1 Dec ex 2 & 23 Nov) Shaun Dixon (8 & 14 June; 2 & 23 Nov)
Marcello: David Kempster
Musetta: Kate Valentine
Schaunard: Gary Griffiths (1 - 15 June) Daniel Grice (8 Sept - 1 Dec)
Colline: David Soar ( 1 - 15 June) Piotr Lempa (8 Sept - 1 Dec)

Conductor: Carlo Rizzi(June 1-15)Simon Philippo(until 10 Nov)Andrew Greenwood(from21 Nov) Director: Annabel Arden Designer: Stephen Brimson Lewis Lighting Designer: Tim Mitchell Projection Designer: Nina Dunn for Knifedge Choreographer: Philippe Giraudeau

Photos: Catherine Ashmore

• All performances start at 7.15pm (except 3 June & 23 Sept at 4pm; 11 & 13 Oct at 7pm)
• Running time approximately 2 hours 10 minutes including one interval
• Sung in Italian with surtitles in English (and Welsh in Cardiff, Swansea and Llandudno)

 Birmingham Hippodrome (birminghamhippodrome.com) 0844 338 5000

The Bristol Hippodrome (bristolhippodrome.org.uk) 0844 847 2325

Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff (wmc.org.uk) 029 2063 6464

Liverpool Empire Theatre (liverpoolempire.org.uk) 0844 847 2525

Venue Cymru, Llandudno (venuecymru.co.uk) 01492 872000

Milton Keynes Theatre (miltonkeynestheatre.com) 0870 060 6652

Oxford New Theatre (newtheatreoxford.org.uk) 0844 847 1585

Plymouth Theatre Royal (theatreroyal.com) 01752 267222

The Mayflower Southampton (mayflower.org.uk) 02380 711811

Swansea Grand Theatre (reserve online at swanseagrand.co.uk) 01792 475715

For any further information please call 0800 328 2357 / or email: [email protected]

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