Dutch National Touring Opera
PUCCINI’S La Boheme, certainly the most accessible of all grand operas, has been brought up to date and shortened to barely 75 minutes for a production by young singers from the Dutch National Opera, currently touring our region under the auspices of Dorset Opera Festival.
The UK premiere of this clever new version was given in London on Sunday, and local audiences are in for a treat at seven venues in the coming weeks.
The story is familiar. A group of students lives in a flat in the Latin Quarter in Paris, suffering together from the cold, the hunger, the elation and the despair of impoverished youth.
One night Rodolfo the writer stays in his freezing room to complete a project, when his young neighbour Mimi knocks on the door asking for a light for her candle. They fall in love, but their affair is short-lived as she is already in the final stages of tuberculosis and he has no idea how to deal with his feelings.
At the same time his best friend, the painter Marcello, is frantic with jealousy that his lover Musetta has dumped him for an older and richer man, but their mutual magnetism will always fuel a volatile relationship.
This passionate and heart-rending story of young love is as timeless as Puccini’s beautiful music, and this production with its onstage ensemble of piano, cello and clarinet, brings it intimately and vividly to life.
The young singers, led by the English Hannah Medlam as Mimi, Norwegian Thorbjorn Gulbrandsoy as Roldofo, Dutch Sonja Volten as Musetta and Turkish Bora Balci as Marcello, are, unusually, just the right age to play these roles, and in modern dress and on a simple set, the production has a powerful immediacy.
This is no diluted “opera-lite”, but is a chance to hear talented young singers at the start of their professional careers in a brilliantly reduced version, touring to a venue near you and available at a price anyone can afford – just the way to dispel the image of opera as an elitist and inaccessible art form for the elderly wealthy.
See this memorable production at Salisbury City Hall on Tuesday 2nd July, The Exchange at Sturminster Newon on Thursday 4th, Bridport Electric Palace on Friday 5th, Yeovil’s Octagon Theatre on Sunday 7th, Christchurch Regent Centre on Tuesday 9th or Poole’s Lighthouse on Wednesday 10th July – or returning The Exchange on Friday 26th July. Visit www.dorsetopera.com for more details.