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LA BOHEME ****** GIACOMO PUCCINI CAST: Mimi: Anna Netrebko Rodolfo: Rolando Villazon Musetta: Nicole Cabell Marcello: Boaz Daniel Director: Robert Dornhelm La Boheme, one of the most beloved operas ever since its creation in 1896, has always been a work associated with a very special thrill. It does, however, also inspire some high expectations. This 2008 production, directed by Robert Dornhelm, unfortunately did not quite deliver the operatic feast I was so much looking forward to. Now I am not saying it was horrible. In fact I would still consider it good, but definitely not excellent. So please let me shed some light on the all the pros and cons. The fact that this adaptation is presented in the form of a movie made it possible to utilize a much broader spectrum of visual techniques. The scenery, in this particular case the streets of Paris or an empty courtyard with snow falling onto the protagonists, certainly serves to give this project a more interesting dimension. The inside scenes, however, still feel very theatric, as if they were performed on stage. In my opinion not much was undertaken to achieve any level of originality in set design and the lack of novel approach also extends to the props and costumes. As far as the two principal artists are concerned, I will not even bother describing the vocal merits of this production, I think most of us will agree that both Netrebko and Villazon did not become such acclaimed international stars for nothing. Their singing is certainly top-notch, but the acting, alas, could really use some improvement. Villazon’s Rodolfo works great in the sequences involving his comrades, where they horse around, make rowdy jokes and generally provide comic relief from the intensely emotional drama evolving alongside these bohemian scenes. But in those tender moments, when he is singing his heart out to express his love for Mimi, he is simply overdoing it, his facial expressions a bit frantic, even clownish at times. Netrebko generally does manage to convey the tragedy of the terminally ill seamstress, but even her performance appears a little wooden at times, the turmoil of love, passion and despair not quite reaching her eyes. But where it really counts, especially in the last Act, she does succeed in creating an adequately convincing persona, infusing her Heroine with the essence of a woman distraught, tormented, disheveled, yet strangely serene at the same time. We watch her subtle transformation as she finally finds peace and that is probably the most touching part of the whole film. Nicole Cabell portrays Musetta as a rather vulgar, at times cheap and even crude girl, an interpretation I did not really care for. I personally prefer her to be shown as a sensual, intriguing seductress breaking men’s hearts, not a wanton harlot. I think she wanted to come off as mischievous, but might have put just a little bit too much effort into that. All the other singers can be described as very competent: albeit not terribly memorable, they played their parts well. Although this project did not dazzle me with an especially innovative or fresh approach to this beautiful opera, there were two aspects that I would consider worth mentioning. First of all the lyric, dreamy sequences of Rodolfo and Mimi exchanging caresses truly did emphasize their feeling for one another, the sensual side of their love, made it appear more real.  Also the contrast between Mimi with Rodolfo and Musetta with Marcello, the two couples singing alongside one another could not be more pronounced: the looks, the body language, the timbre of voice. Both tragic in their own way, but only one relationship influenced by cruel Fate to the point where there is no redemption, no saving and no happy end, while the other two just throw their good fortune away with both hands… All in all I would still recommend this production, particularly if this is your first viewing of this opera. Dornhelm’s vision, although not spectacular or daring, still represents a solid interpretation of this evergreen classic. But if you are a little more advanced and are seeking something that will knock you off your feet, then I am not sure this will do the trick. One can, however, remain hopeful :-)… BUY ON AMAZON:
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LA BOHEME ****** GIACOMO PUCCINI CAST: Mimi: Anna Netrebko Rodolfo: Rolando Villazon Musetta: Nicole Cabell Marcello: Boaz Daniel Director: Robert Dornhelm La Boheme, one of the most beloved operas ever since its creation in 1896, has always been a work associated with a very special thrill. It does, however, also inspire some high expectations. This 2008 production, directed by Robert Dornhelm, unfortunately did not quite deliver the operatic feast I was so much looking forward to. Now I am not saying it was horrible. In fact I would still consider it good, but definitely not excellent. So please let me shed some light on the all the pros and cons. The fact that this adaptation is presented in the form of a movie made it possible to utilize a much broader spectrum of visual techniques. The scenery, in this particular case the streets of Paris or an empty courtyard with snow falling onto the protagonists, certainly serves to give this project a more interesting dimension. The inside scenes, however, still feel very theatric, as if they were performed on stage. In my opinion not much was undertaken to achieve any level of originality in set design and the lack of novel approach also extends to the props and costumes. As far as the two principal artists are concerned, I will not even bother describing the vocal merits of this production, I think most of us will agree that both Netrebko and Villazon did not become such acclaimed international stars for nothing. Their singing is certainly top-notch, but the acting, alas, could really use some improvement. Villazon’s Rodolfo works great in the sequences involving his comrades, where they horse around, make rowdy jokes and generally provide comic relief from the intensely emotional drama evolving alongside these bohemian scenes. But in those tender moments, when he is singing his heart out to express his love for Mimi, he is simply overdoing it, his facial expressions a bit frantic, even clownish at times. Netrebko generally does manage to convey the tragedy of the terminally ill seamstress, but even her performance appears a little wooden at times, the turmoil of love, passion and despair not quite reaching her eyes. But where it really counts, especially in the last Act, she does succeed in creating an adequately convincing persona, infusing her Heroine with the essence of a woman distraught, tormented, disheveled, yet strangely serene at the same time. We watch her subtle transformation as she finally finds peace and that is probably the most touching part of the whole film. Nicole Cabell portrays Musetta as a rather vulgar, at times cheap and even crude girl, an interpretation I did not really care for. I personally prefer her to be shown as a sensual, intriguing seductress breaking men’s hearts, not a wanton harlot. I think she wanted to come off as mischievous, but might have put just a little bit too much effort into that. All the other singers can be described as very competent: albeit not terribly memorable, they played their parts well. Although this project did not dazzle me with an especially innovative or fresh approach to this beautiful opera, there were two aspects that I would consider worth mentioning. First of all the lyric, dreamy sequences of Rodolfo and Mimi exchanging caresses truly did emphasize their feeling for one another, the sensual side of their love, made it appear more real.  Also the contrast between Mimi with Rodolfo and Musetta with Marcello, the two couples singing alongside one another could not be more pronounced: the looks, the body language, the timbre of voice. Both tragic in their own way, but only one relationship influenced by cruel Fate to the point where there is no redemption, no saving and no happy end, while the other two just throw their good fortune away with both hands… All in all I would still recommend this production, particularly if this is your first viewing of this opera. Dornhelm’s vision, although not spectacular or daring, still represents a solid interpretation of this evergreen classic. But if you are a little more advanced and are seeking something that will knock you off your feet, then I am not sure this will do the trick. One can, however, remain hopeful :-)… BUY ON AMAZON:
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