While reviewing Opera North’s production of La Bohème at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle for the second time in almost as many months, I struggled with an angle, how to tell you of a production that is as fresh an vibrant as a ‘Hot’ new West End production. and then the ‘angle’ came to me during a scene change.
As the house lights illuminated the theatre and the curtain descended, I looked around the theatre and for one brief moment I was transported back to childhood, a remembrance of things past, and I thought about the total wonder I felt seeing at seeing a pantomime. For that is when we first experience ‘theatre’ and all it can offer.
La Bohème is a doomed love story as tragic in its outcome as Romeo and Juliet. On a cold Christmas Eve, two struggling artists Rodolfo Aldo Di Toro and Marcello Marcin Bronikowski try to keep warm and resort to burning a play that the Rodolfo has written. Their friends arrive home with better fortunes of the day Colline, Tim Mirfin and Schaunard, Quirijn de Lang. Schaunard has both good news, money and provisions and they celebrate by heading off to Café Momus, while Rodolfo will join them later. While working he here’s a knock at the door and a neighbour Mimi, Sarah Fox asks if he will light her candle that has blown out. She is exhausted and collapses. When she comes round they talk and very quickly fall in love. They too join their friends and an ‘ex’ of the painter Marcello, Musetta, Jeni Bern, flirts with him to infuriate her current beau and eventually ‘wins’ over her prize.
I won’t spoil the rest of the story, needless to say for two of the lovers the outcome is tragic. La Bohème like all Plays, Opera, Ballet and theatre needs to be see live and from genuine talent that is as good as any recording on LP, CD, video or DVD. For that is what you have here. A cast, chorus and an orchestra to rival anything that is in a collection at home.
Yes, there were one or two things that grated on me, a noisy scene change, some not fluid lighting changes, but these are small in comparison to a wonderfully spectacular evening of magical theatre. Much like a child watching the transformation of a pumpkin into a coach for the first time, magical.