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Radiance of reconciliation

Puccini's 'La Bohème' -
appreciated by

'... never a dull visual moment ...'

Puccini: La Bohème - Teatro alla Scala. © 2003 Rai Trade, 2004 TDK Marketing Europe GmbH

It is not all that easy to follow the love-lives of these Bohemians. The frozen Mimi's tiny hand is enough to get the poet Rodolfo in hot pursuit by the end of Act 1. Musetta in Act 2 has an elderly beau in tow, most recent of a lengthening catalogue and useful for stimulating the jealousy of the artist Marcello. By the start of Act 3 Mimi and Rodolfo have agreed to part though apparently making it up by curtain-down. During the interval before Act 4 Mimi has taken up with an offstage Viscount, only to abandon him when her worsening consumption drives her painfully back to the lovelorn garret, where she can die in the radiance of reconciliation all round.

Her Majesty the Queen has recently given Franco Zeffirelli a knighthood. Perhaps it was not specifically for this DVD, which is certainly worthy of his extraordinary gifts and has for good value a discourse by him (in Italian) outlining his principles as director and designer. Verdi and Puccini look on from behind, with Callas and possibly Toscanini in attendance. Snowy-haired, venerable and engaging throughout the talk, Zeffirelli becomes youthfully blonde for a curtain-call at the end of the opera. I wondered, therefore, whether he should have tried to subtract a few years from his Bohemian quartet, who cavorted about their quarters with commendable agility while looking in close-up as if they needed only half their age.

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Copyright © 23 December 2004 Robert Anderson, London UK


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