La Boheme

By Stephen Pollard, May 3, 2012

Royal Opera House, London WC2

John Copley's production of La bohème opened in 1974 and this is its 25th outing. But it can rarely have seemed fresher than with this excellent cast, and under the stunning baton of Semyon Bychkov.

From the very first note, Bychkov has the Royal Opera House orchestra on top form. And - all too rare with Puccini conducting - he clearly thinks that the opera is as much an orchestral as a vocal feast. He finds such detail and panache that the score sounds more like a tone poem than the usual vocal accompaniment. It is worth an evening of your time just for this.

But there is far more than that. Joseph Calleja is the pre-eminent Rodolfo of the moment. Often he sings beautifully but his acting leaves something to be desired. That is certainly not the case here; he was as passionate and moving a Rodolfo as you could wish for. And his voice is simply glorious.

His Mimi, the Italian Carmen Giannattasio, got better as the night wore on. Her voice is fine, without being anything to write home about.

There is an excellent house debut from Fabio Capitanucci as Marcello, and Nuccia Focile reprises her classic Musetta.

But the real honours go to Copley, who, with this revival of his 38-year-old production, celebrates 50 years at the Royal Opera. This is as good a Bohème as you will see. (Tel: 020 7304 4000)

Last updated: 1:08pm, May 31 2012