Review: La Boheme, Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham
The Bohemian way of life has never really appealed to me: too many uncertainties and deprivations.
However, if this production of Puccini's opera is anything to go by, with its high spirits and camaraderie, perhaps it's time to abandon my dull, staid existence and join in the jollity.
This offers a chance to see, not a down-at-heel touring company, but the leading opera company of Belarus complete with a substantial orchestra, chorus, proper sets and the best of that country's musical talent.
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The singing was faultless by artists who know their trade and how to make their characters come alive, while in the crowded orchestra pit conductor Victor Ploskina worked magic with Puccini's wonderful score.
I was expecting the group of poets, artists and painters to be younger and much shabbier than they were. Most were well turned out, while Mimi was dressed in a stylish mini-dress and expensive white leather coat looking as if she had just been round the Promenade shops.
But I'm not complaining, since in other respects George Isaakian's production was spot on. Physically Sergei Frankovsky did not correspond to my idea of a struggling poet, but he has a magnificent tenor voice.
His duet with the waif-like Mimi (Tatiana Tretiak) on their initial encounter really pulled at the heart strings. Inna Rusinovskaya, surely Belarus's answer to Lesley Garrett, was a superbly flighty Musetta; while the handsome Vladimir Petrov had a good stage presence as her old flame Marcello.
There were convincing performances, too, from Aleksandr Krasnodubsky as Schaunard, Ilia Pevzner as Colline and the bumbling Vasily Kovalchiuk as Musetta's sugar daddy, Alcindoro.
The company are performing La Boheme again and I cannot recommend it too highly. It's exuberant, hilarious and also deeply moving - so remember to take plenty of tissues for use during the more heart-rending scenes.