Puccini’s La Bohème (An Ellen Kent Production)
New Theatre, Oxford
Reviewed by Jade Prince
Seen January 24th, 2020
Arguably one of the most romantic operas ever written, Puccini’s La Bohème sees a young poet and seamstress meet and fall in love. It’s a story of struggles with poverty and health and how this blossoming romance holds under the pressure.
This was a nice production however there were a few things that I could not overlook. I was toying between giving La Bohème three or fours stars. Having now seen another Ellen Kent production, four stars for this is the correct choice. In reflection it would have been far too harsh to give this moving production three stars.
The main purpose of the opera was met. It was vocally beautiful and heartbreaking. It started off rather quiet. There were definitely sound issues. Everything felt a little lost on the stage. The vocals, the acting and the orchestra. Thankfully as the show progressed it started to assert its dominance.
My main critique of the show is how ‘DIY’ it felt. The set and costumes looked so cheap even from a distance. In a way I’m glad we had the surtitles because it distracted from those factors. It’s harsh, I know but it all screamed cheap and very nearly overpowered the show.
Alyona Kistenyova who played Mimi provided endless emotion and constant vocals throughout. She definitely dazzled more in act 1…of 3. The other cast members, although vocally sound, faded into the background. It is a shame but I suppose the opera is all about the music and the voice. These are the main components that carry you on that huge emotional journey. It definitely did that.
All in all, I really enjoyed the evening. I know it seems like a heavily criticised the show. I think for me, an opera is this huge grand experience and unfortunately, this production of La Bohème missed the mark and didn’t match my expectation. Dare I say it felt like a high school production. A good one! But still very much a high school production with a few professional voices dotted through.
This production of La Bohème has just began it’s UK tour and there are plenty of dates left to catch it. More information on upcoming venue and tickets can be found here.