Operawire, DEC 11, 2020
|By Lois Silverstein
Puccini: La Bohème, Bayerische Staatsoper, 27.11.2020 (im Internet-Stream ab 30.11.2020)
Review: La Bohème
Jonas Kaufmann & Rachel Willis-Sørensen Lead Beautifully Staged
Asher Fisch led the Bayerischen Staatsöper
Orchestra and a starry cast that included tenor Jonas Kaufmann as Rodolfo
and soprano Rachel Willis-Sorensen as Mimì. The outcome was a performance
that came to life on screen and renewed the spirit of opera lovers during a
time of lockdown and closed opera houses.
outset, there was youthful energy within the soloists. In the role of
Rodolfo, Jonas Kaufmann brought his signature playfulness on stage. His
Rodolfo was youthful and filled with irreverent high-jinx gaiety and fun,
making every gesture purposeful and varied. At one moment he was pouring
endless glasses of wine and actually eating bread between notes and at
another moment he was camouflaging himself on the bed when the concierge
Benoit came for the rent. He also danced around with his flatmates.
His vocal performance also showcased a bright timbre with Kaufmann using his
signature piannissimi and varying the colors in his dusky tenor. In his duet
with Mimì, Kaufmann put great emphasis on the text showcasing a balance
between musical phrasing and the words that Rodolfo speaks to his beloved.
One could sense the love in Kaufmann’s Rodolfo from his facial expressions,
his precise hand gestures, and his bright eyes. Overall it was an exquisite,
focused, and tasteful interpretation.
While his burnished sheen
mostly came across in his “Che Gellida Mannina” and “O Soave Fanciulla,” the
soaring quality remained the province of American soprano Rachel
Willis-Sørensen and the orchestra, which Fisch conducted often at full
Willis-Sørensen’s lustrous voice soared throughout the
evening particularly in her “Mi Chiamano, Mimì,” which filled the stage with
a sweet and tender legato, suffused with round and swelling tones. During
her “Donde lieta usci, sola Mimi,” her voice also rang out with power and
gleam. In fact, the richness of her voice transcended other performers’
choices and sometimes seemed a touch more Wagneresque. Still, she remained
vocally and theatrically compatible with Kaufmann as they both seemed to
understand each other’s musical phrases.
They were also believable
lovers as Willis-Sørensen aptly transmitted her heart with each movement
from a tilt of her head or her eyes closing. Kaufmann sang with ardor and
conviction, never diluting his credibility as a poet and lover and he
remained the young Rodolfo, wooing the object of his affection.
three, Mimì and Rodolfo’s farewell was touching, if not convincingly
sorrowful as it might have been. As this critic was watching, the first
question that popped into mind was, did Kaufmann’s Rodolfo really believe
she would let him go and that he would let her go? The answer was yes and
no. He was definitely sad and showed it as his body partly sunk to reflect
it. At the same time, the conviction one would expect from separation was
not there. The famous quartet Puccini wrote, “Addio dolce svegliare,” at the
end of the act did fortify these ups and downs and the feelings in the
characters. One could see the “I hate-you,” “I-love-you,” and “goodbyes” as
the cast performed with intensity throughout.
The final act was
filled with sentimentality and worked exceptionally well. Kaufman’s Rodolfo
was tender and affecting particularly in his final cries “Mimì” although the
orchestral volume again, covered much of it, and we were kept from its full
vocal power. Willis-Sørensen’s final lines were filled with beauty and here
she reduced her volume to showcase the lyric side of it. Colline’s “Vecchia
zimarra,” performed by Tariq Nazmi was affecting, and the “cri-de-coeur” at
the end hurt, even if it didn’t tear us apart.
Musetta, sung by soprano Mirjam Mesak, was aptly flirtatious and
appealing. Her gestures were clear and directed and her movements piquant
and smart. She sang the famous waltz, “Quando m’en vo” with nicely detailed
musical phrases. Her voice floated with beauty and elegance, if not a
heart-creasing sound. The live stream gave audiences the opportunity to
experience all her finesse and subtle details without strain and this critic
definitely fell in love with her characterization.
(Marcello), Sean Michael Plumb (Schaunard), and Tariq Nazmi (Colline) sang
with gusto while playing their roles with free-spiritedness.
small but crucial roles of Parpignol and Alcindoro, Andres Agudelo and Karel
Martin Ludvik kept the audience’s feet on the ground and from falling into
Asher Fisch kept up a brisk pace with the Bayerischen
Orchestra, capitalizing on the lyric beauty of Puccini’s score. He relished
in the rich coloration of bells glockenspiel, chimes, harp, and the full
complement of winds strings and brass and he kept the musical line aglow.
With flaws and all, this performance brought this critic to tears at the
curtain, even “sans” audience. There was no catharsis, unfortunately.
However, we couldn’t have been happier to watch these musicians give it
their all and allow to us remain gripped by the opera’s magic and the wonder
of its makers.