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ENO’s La Bohème

Published 30 October 2014

What’s it all about?

Love at first sight, the romantic – albeit freezing cold – life of bohemians in Paris, friendship, jealousy and heartbreak of the most devastating kind.

Jonathan Miller’s stunning 1930s-set production of Puccini’s famous opera has been touted as an excellent jumping off point for those looking to take the dive into what can sometimes be seen as a challenging art form.

It achieves that and more; successfully both utterly accessible and overwhelmingly beautiful with its phenomenal score, swelling with emotion and humour, and a company of talented performers who bring a youthful zeal and passion to the story.

Who’s in it?

Angel Blue leads as the fated Mimi, winning the auditorium’s hearts with an elegant performance as the nervous, easily flustered famous lover; a direct contrast to fellow leading lady Jennifer Holloway’s confident, exuberant Musetta.

As Mimi’s besotted Rodolfo, a tortured poet whose case of the green eyed monster threatens to get in the way of destiny, tenor David Butt Philip is both endearing and frustrating. Alongside his fellow artists painter Marcello (George Von Bergen), musician Schaunard (George Humphreys) and philosopher Colline (Barnaby Rea), the quartet offer the opera a fresh, boyish charm that makes 1930s Paris feel not so many miles away from warehouse flat shares all over East London today.

What should I look out for?

Isabella Bywater’s design inspired by 1930s photography. Hazy, moody and atmospheric, it very nearly steals the show.  

Miller’s vibrant and acutely observed direction that breathes bustling, noisy life into every scene.

Snow. Beautiful, magic, street-silencing snow.

Who was in the press night crowd?

Breaking any stereotypes of opera you might have, the auditorium was packed with everyone from the age of 10-years-old – spotted in the seat in front of me seeking light relief in the interval from a well-worn copy of Harry Potter – to more senior life-long opera fans, with everyone in between. Sporting everything from full length gowns and heels to jeans and converse, the opera rule book has – happily – been thrown out the window for its eclectic 21st century audience.

In a nutshell?

Wear waterproof mascara, keep tissues to hand and lose yourself in the soaring swell of emotion that is arguably opera’s greatest tragic love story.

What’s being said on Twitter?

@emevison Beautiful performance of La Boheme @E_N_O tonight – a real tearjerker! Highly recommend! #ENOBoheme

@janburnell Just coming back from #ENO opening night of La Boheme. Wonderful staging +great singing. Angel Blue was superb especially in the 2nd half.

Will I like it?

If you’re a romantic, La Boheme will steal your heart. Granted it will leave it black and blue, but in the grand tradition of all the best famous romances, audiences would have it no other way.

La Bohème is playing until 2 December. You can book tickets through us here.

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