IFORD Festival opera comes of age this year with Christopher Cowell’s production of the Puccini tearjerker La Boheme, performed as always in the viscerally intimate Harold Peto cloister.
The first of three operas in this year’s 21st opera season, this masterful reading of the familiar story of seamstress Mimi, the coquettish Musetta and the young men who live a Bohemian life in a Parisian garret has a rare and tangible authenticity. The convincingly young cast belong firmly to the new generation of opera performers, whose training is as much in the art of acting as in voice production and preparation.
The proximity of the audience to the Iford performers means there is no space for posturing. Cowell’s direction, in Eleanor Wdowski’s effective set and costumes, makes for a fly-on-the-wall glimpse of the passions, jealousies, pranks and heartbreak of the young Parisians.
However familiar the music, its power to move the emotions is never diminished, and Maire Flavin and Anthony Flaum have the perfect chemistry to bring out all its effects. Nicholas Lester’s Marcello and Alison Langer’s Musetta exemplify their characters’ charisma, selfcentredness and innate goodness, and Frederick Long’s Schaunard is a charming joker.
James Ioelu’s Colline works the poignant magic that turns on the tears as he bids farewell to his coat – only Puccini could get away with this shameless sentimentality. It works. If it doesn’t work, the end of the story falls flat. And here it is as sharply painful as you could wish.
We don’t usually give stars on the FTR, but this would be a five star production if we did. The beautiful and sensitive production continues on 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 9th, 10th and 13th June. Only returns are available.
There are a few tickets left for The Barber of Seville from 21st June to 1st July, and for Handel’s Jephtha from 22nd July to 2nd August. Visit www.ifordarts.org.uk for details.