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Oxana Cobzeva as Mimi in the Chisinau National Opera production of Puccini's 'La Bohème'

This was the crucial test. The surprise, however, was the quality. Even the most modest operagoer has probably seen enough Puccini, and certainly enough Marcellos and Rodolfos strutting the stage not to want to be short-changed. They weren't. Here was a cast with the assurance to hold an audience mesmerised from start to finish. There were weaknesses, as there tend to be, in both the leads -- Chisinau has three or four singers who alternate with each other in the respective roles of Mimi and Rodolfo, and neither Ruslan Zinevych, a remarkably teenage-looking Rodolfo, nor Natalia Yutesh, both able, powerful singers (in Zinevych's case, rather relentlessly so) consistently grabbed me. But dramatically they held us enthralled, even though Zineych is given to slightly dotty gestures and attitude-striking that seem entirely redeemable if attributed to his evident youth : the moment where the 'older' , more worldly-wise Colline, Schaunard and Marcello mock Rodolfo mercilessly for his romanticised poetic 'conceits' -- 'She makes flowers, I fashion lines' -- in the Café Momus was a glorious ironic moment. It is the boy in this Rodolfo who makes the grand gestures, the boy who must dress to kill, the boy who hopelessly falls in love, and the boy who gets it all wrong. The others have seen it before, and (even Marcello) moved on.

Nicolae Busuioc as Rodolfo in the Chisinau National Opera production of Puccini's 'La Bohème'

It was this unusual chemistry -- contrasted with some of the 'older' Rodolfos around, though I suspect Chisinau's Nicolae Busuioc, Vasile Cheptenari and Danilo Formaggia have something of this same youthful quality -- helped make this Bohème -- to me at least -- so memorable.

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Copyright © 15 February 2001 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK




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