Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Sat 27 Feb 2010
Two completely contrasting operas are on offer from Scottish Opera in the company’s spring foray to Edinburgh this year. Not that Edinburgh audiences are unfamiliar with Stewart Laing’s production of Puccini’s La bohème. First seen back in 2004, Laing’s take on one of the most popular operas of all time brings the 19th century struggling young Parisian intellectuals into the world of present-day New York. Young love is eternal across the centuries no doubt, but as poet Rodolfo meets coughing, utility-challenged neighbour Mimi in their airy loft-space apartments, this 21st century version doesn’t quite fire up the passion between them as much as carrying on with candles in Paris’s roof-top garrets.
Even just four years down the line, Laing’s IT-inspired set, with cables and screens everywhere, looks dated, its clinical whiteness, however, reflecting the chill felt by the four young artists’ lack of heat. Irish soprano Celine Byrne and French tenor Avi Klemberg, both making their Scottish Opera debuts, didn’t manage to gel in their body language as the love-struck couple on opening night, although both voices are impressive and well-suited to the roles. More convincing theatrically is Nadine Livingston as a tipsy Musetta, with real dramatic tension between her and artist boyfriend Marcello. Playing at full throttle for conductor Francesco Corti, the Scottish Opera Orchestra gives exciting edge to Puccini’s score, even though now and again at the expense of the young voices on stage above them. Well known for her stage work, but surprisingly never before with Scottish Opera, is mezzo Frances McAfferty, who appears in the role of the wonderfully named Fanny Novakova in Janacek’s The Adventures of Mr Broucek. Receiving its Scottish premiere, it’s a comically offbeat opera and should be a complementary companion to La bohème in the company’s Edinburgh residency.
Scottish Opera, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Wed 14 Apr, Thu 15 Apr, Fri 16 Apr (The Adventures of Mr Broucek); Sun 18 Apr, Tue 20 Apr, Thu 22 Apr, Sat 24 Apr (La bohème).