Image courtesy of Adolfo Hohenstein.
The Church Hill Theatre
Tucked away, out of sight of the grand beauty of Parisian streets, four students battling the hardships of nineteenth century poverty embrace both the freedom and the squalor of the bohemian lifestyle. As the first production adapted directorially by Kally Lloyd-Jones, Edinburgh’s Grand Opera evoked both the comedy and the heartbreak of Puccini’s classic.
The staging, although minimal, provided a suitable setting for allowing the vocal talent of the cast to absorb the theatre’s complete attention. In terms of set composition, Act II’s depiction of archetypal French cafe culture, snow-laden terraces and vibrant intellectualism, shone as a particular highlight. However, in comparison to former productions of La Bohème which have garnered certain appraisal for their wonderful embodiment of the chaos of bohemia, it can be said that the Church Hill Theatre’s visual offering was not of the same calibre.
Nonetheless, the operatics, as the most important aspect of the production, were stunningly beautiful. Special praise must be awarded to Deborah Rudden, portraying the doomed, gentle Mimì, and Hazel McBain, who brought to her role the perfect quantity of Musetta’s assertive playfulness. In conjunction with this, the male performers exhibited intense vocal strength confounded by conviction and charisma. Similarly, orchestral excellence created an atmosphere of emotional cohesion which contributed to the overall affectivity of the production.
The depth of Puccini’s masterpiece arguably owes its posterity to its exploration of human relationships, desire, and loss. It is in this way, that Edinburgh’s Grand Opera paid an excellent homage.