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Wednesday, 2 February 2011

La Boheme at The Soho Theatre

After receiving rave reviews at Kilburn’s Cock Tavern, Opera Up Close has transferred its production of La Boheme to the Soho Theatre in the very heart of London. With a new English libretto by Robin Norton-Hale, this show is contemporary and relevant while leaving Puccini’s sublime music untouched.

The Soho Theatre has a great vibe. Everyone sits on long benches that are surprisingly comfortable. Andrew Charity, musical director, plays with great gusto on the piano, replacing the orchestra. He does an excellent job and showing off his dexterity and intimate knowledge of the score. The cast are strong and work well as a team. The biggest roles are quadruple cast, I saw Elinor Jane Moran as the frail Mimi: she has a sweet tone and sings well throughout, but is a very meek stage presence until the final heart-wrenching scene.

I really enjoyed watching the boisterous boys mucking around as the poor suffering students (no money for food, and yet they could afford a swish Mac laptop!). Philip Lee is an exceptionally strong singer-actor as Rodolfo and Nicolas Dwyer provides good support as a leather clad Marcello.

After the first act the applause was broken by a bellowing voice behind us, everyone was instructed to immediately leave the auditorium and make our way downstairs to the large chaotic bar area. The bar was dark, crowded and loud and reminded me of my student union at university. I noticed a dodgy DVD seller hawknig his wares on the sly and wondered how he’d managed to get into such a place. Then from nowhere a spotlight shone over us, the pianist began playing in the corner of the room and the singers appeared pushing through the crowds... the second act was underway. Using the bar as the cafe Momus is an inspired idea and works extremely well in this venue. We were back upstairs for the final act. It is an intense display that shows the performers at their very best. I found the final moments of the play very affecting, and looked round to see that I was not the only person weeping.

I fully support Opera Up Close’s work, and cannot stress how important I believe it is to bring Operatic repertoire to those who cannot afford the grandeur and cost of the ROH and ENO. However I find it strange that Puccini is a popular choice for this young company. Of all the operatic repertoire, Puccini scores entail some of the trickiest music, usually left for mature singers to tackle later in their careers. And as much as I enjoyed this production I feel the singers occasionally struggle in a way they perhaps wouldn't with a Rossini aria, or a Mozart ensemble.

The efforts of the artistic team behind this production must be commended, on a thoroughly modern and yet comprehensive version of La Boheme. A show that I thought was in many ways more believable than a more conventional Puccini staging. As expected, the vocal talent is not as impressive as the stars found in the renowned opera houses; however these are young performers who may one day find themselves in the major London theatres, and it is a pleasure to support them on their journey there.

Book tickets here.


  1. thanks for your comment ! and yes it is her ! they are such beautiful pictures !

  2. i follow you = ) wonderful blog !!

  3. Hey Milly :) Thanks so much for the sweet comment on my blog! I'm lovving yours as well!!! FABULOUS! I FOLLOW TOO!

  4. Thanks for your comment!
    I love your blog too, it is really interesting!follow you :)

  5. You have a nice Blog, too!

    Yes, i want....if you do the same ;D

  6. ahh! your posts always make me want to go to these places. i really feel like seeing a live show now!

  7. I really enjoyed reading this post!

  8. such an interesting blog!i'm following ^^

  9. Oh, I'm glad you enjoyed it; I always thought that La Boheme was one of the Puccini's finest moments! :)
    I saw it last year with my girlfriend at The Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb but it was a more of a classical performance; they didn't use any of the Apple products. ;D
    Following and supporting! :)

  10. great post ! :O

    and i love the background of your blog :)