La Bohème in The Helix, Dublin October 27th 2013.
Opera in this country can be a bit hit and miss and the latter seems to win out majority of the time. So when an international production comes to our shores it’s met with both anticipation and memories of a recent history of failed Irish productions. Luckily Ellen Kent’s take on Puccini’s La Bohème didn’t disappoint this Bank Holiday weekend when it came to the stage of The Helix.
From the opening scene in the artists’ garret studio Puccini’s celebration of the Bohemia life of 1890’s Paris comes alive with a more than competent cast and a well-designed set. Things are moving along nicely as the male performers raucously parade around the stage, keeping the audience entertained. However, the mood changes and the crowd’s expectations are truly exceeded when Elena Dee makes her entrance as the fragile yet stunning Mimi. Fully embracing her character, the young Korean glides through well-known aria ‘Mi chiamo Mimi/They call me Mimi’. She has a wonderful control and tone to her voice, a treat to have on an Irish stage. Her co-star Sorin Lupa doesn’t disappoint as Rodolfo either – yet even his grounded stage presence is lost against the soprano’s understated charisma. The only low point of the evening occurred after the first act when the audience were exposed to a laborious scene change without a closed curtain. Act two sees the entrance of Ecaterina Danu as Musetta. She too impresses with her crafty interactions with former lover Marcello. The use of snow and a full stage captures the festive atmosphere intended, complementing the storm raging outside.
Act three is dominated by Petru Racovita who brings the character of Marcello, the painter, to life. The baritone’s voice is warm and his conveying of the wit of his character entertaining and lively. He is, without a doubt, the most impressive male on stage. After the final interval, the mood changes to one of sorrow. The passing of Mimi is beautifully sombre, presented extremely well both by Dee and her fellow casts members. As the opera closes, the audience feel they have travelled as part of the plot on this moving journey alongside the characters. This is not only thanks to a strong libretto and Puccini’s score but also the power of each individual performer.
This may have been a slightly stripped back production but the relaxed atmosphere was an advantage to the accessibility of the plot. The interaction between the performers suggested not only a comradery amongst their respective characters but within the cast offstage as well, and it was these finer and more subtle details that make the evening pass with ease.
Ellen Kent returns to the capital in March with a production of Verdi’s Nabucco in the National Concert Hall.
Rodolfo – Sorin Lupu
Mimi – Elena Dee
Musetta -Ecaterina Danu
Marcello – Petru Racovita
Colline – Valeriu Cojocaru
Schaunard – Iurie Gisca