Review: This nimble reworking is tenderly done
Lyric Opera returns to the National Concert Hall with Puccini's evergreen La bohème. John Donoghue's compact design may be economical but his Parisian Latin Quarter garret setting contains essential detail.
A nimble reconfiguration brings the amusing bustle of Act II's Café Momus on Christmas Eve while the grey February morning at the Barriere d'Enfer is starkly wintry.
Jeannette Tumilty's costumes suggest late 1940s more than Puccini's 1830, but never mind. Apart from Mimi's florescent-green shoes, this impinges little on the overall effect.
Director Vivian Coates guarantees the elements of comedy and tragedy have their rightful place with the emotional heart of seamstress Mimi's involvement with poet Rodolfo tenderly handled.
Samoan-born Marlena Devoe presents the fragile figure of the consumptive heroine with positive conviction. Her clear soprano range may be delicately expressive but it also shows a depth of purpose when need be.
English tenor Alexander James Edwards is her ardent Rodolfo. Passionate and abrasive, his interpretation is still consistently musical and he conveys the poet's jealously and remorse in equal measure.
Elsewhere, the production has several other strengths, not least Nicholas Lester's Marcello. Away from his garret antics, he communicates a fatherly concern for the distraught Mimi in Act III.
Emma Walsh is the brazenly coquettish and platinum blonde Musetta, with Cormac Lawlor and Alex Otterburn adding rich colour to philosopher Colline and musician Schaunard.
Conductor David T Heusel moves Puccini's wonderful score along gracefully and dramatically while ensuring vocal and instrumental balance is never distorted.