La Boheme: an opera review by Victor Grynberg

January 5, 2020 by Victor Grynberg
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A summertime favourite at the Opera House almost every year, La Boheme received that rare Sydney accolade, an almost total standing ovation after this year’s opening night.

Samuel Dundas as Marcello, Richard Anderson as Colline, Michael Lampard as Schaunard, Kang Wang as Rodolfo and Karah Son as Mimi in Opera Australia’s 2020 production of La Bohème at the Sydney Opera House.     Photo credit: Prudence Upton

That an opera, much loved but so familiar can get this reaction was clearly the result of a wonderfully collaborative effort by so many.

The production itself, originated by the acclaimed Gale Edwards has taken the original setting of a garret in freezing Paris in the 1850s to just as cold an apartment at an end of Weimar Republic/commencement of Naziism, Berlin. This setting works especially well during Act 3, where the Nazi menace hovers so strongly.

The revival director Liesel Badorrek has displayed her enthusiasm for this opera like a top football coach by training up her complete cast to full fitness and energy, with a belief that no matter how many times they may have done the opera, the evening’s performance is absolutely critical.

Karah Son as Mimi and Kang Wang as Rodolfo in Opera Australia’s 2020 production of La Bohème at the Sydney Opera House. Photo credit: Prudence Upton

Much acclaimed Italian Jewish conductor Carlo Goldstein,  admired for his work last year on Carmen, leads the way by passionately mouthing every word to encourage so greatly his singers. Watching him from the side was a total delight. OA please bring him back annually. Goldstein’s very well-rehearsed band of musicians responded beautifully, whether in the quieter harp-led moments or the magnificent lush violin-led melodies of the so many hit arias and duets of this eternal favourite.

Karah Son, the Korean born, Italian trained soprano was an enchanting Mimi. Passionate when well, fragile in her illness. A beautiful voice, clean and clear hitting her notes beautifully.

Her previous roles for OA were Asian characters, Cio-Cio San in Madama Butterfly and Liu in Turandot. This was her first “Western “ role. May there be many more.

A perfect foil for Mimi was Kang Wang, the Australian-Chinese tenor as Rodolfo. We’ve had a shortage of good tenors locally, so it’s pleasing that we can welcome Mr Wang, already a success overseas to our OA company.

Julie Lea Goodwin was irrepressible as the flirtatious Musetta. A role she has excelled in previously. Many opera-goers will also recall her outstanding performance last Autumn as Maria in the  Handa on the  Harbour production of “West Side Story “.

Local favourite Samuel Dundas was as convincing as ever in the role of Marcello.

Rounding out the quartet of artists from the famous opening scene were Richard Anderson as Colline and Michael Lampard as Schaunard.

Kang Wang as Rodolfo, Karah Son as Mimi, Samuel Dundas as Marcello, Richard Anderson as Colline and Michael Lampard as Schaunard in Opera Australia’s 2020 production of La Bohème at the Sydney Opera House. Photo credit: Prudence Upton

I think it’s 6 or 7 times that I’ve seen Graeme Macfarlane as the hapless landlord Benoit. OA obviously is using that old advertising phrase “When you’re onto a good thing, stick to it.”

Victor Grynberg

May he always amuse us as well as he always does. Bravo to him.

And Bravo to the kids, the market scene as wonderful as ever and indeed to the whole company for giving us such a magnificent evening of superb music, beautifully sung and staged. A very well deserved standing ovation!

5 Stars

La Boheme

Opera Australia

Sydney Opera House January 2nd

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