Tuesday 28 February 2017

Review: Puccini comes to life with panache

Opera: La bohème, O'Reilly Theatre, Dublin

Pat O'Kelly

Giacomo Puccini
Giacomo Puccini

Opera Theatre Company remains in 'popular' mould for its latest production - Puccini's evergreen La bohème.

I see the launch of its nine-venue nationwide tour and find Ben Barnes' direction mainly faithful to Puccini's ideal and coalescing neatly with conductor Andrew Greenwood's realisation of the score.

Moving the action forward by a century or so from the original 1830s matters little, and there is much to enjoy in Joe Vanek's detailed design that uses limited space with ingenious imagination.

The Act I Paris Latin Quarter garret, revived for Act IV, is a veritable Aladdin's cave of student bric-a-brac while Act II captures the conviviality of the Café Momus. Viewing Musetta and Marcello in amorous dalliance through a window relieves the rather sombre Act III.

The commitment of Andrew Greenwood's relatively small band and chorus far outweigh their number and the subtleties of Puccini's music emerge with fascinating clarity while its climaxes have dependable weight.

OTC's cast has vocal and theatrical strength. Without abandoning sympathetic expression and retaining their individuality, the male quartet follows Libby Seward's mobile choreography with interactive panache.

The coy and consumptive Mimi is also nicely contrasted with the capricious, yet concerned, Musetta.

With assured and unforced tone, Pablo Bemsch is the romantic poet Rodolfo and his passionate appeal to the demure Mimi is instantly credible. Máire Flavin is this reticent seamstress who still communicates inner strength as true love stumbles on rocky ground.

Sinéad Campbell-Wallace brings significant depth to the flirtatious Musetta and is powerfully matched by Charles Reid's vibrant Marcello.

Rory Musgrave and Padraic Rowan are the affirmative Schaunard and Colline with Adrian Clarke effective as both licentious landlord and hoodwinked roué.

Irish Independent

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