A BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY? ER, NOT UITE...
Royal Opera House, London Until October 10
The US produces even fewer great romantic tenors than great presidents. But as with their presidents, they live in hope. Hence the OTT pre-publicity for Michael Fabiano’s Rodolfo in Richard Jones’s sadly underwhelming La Bohème.
The howls of enthusiasm on opening night that greeted Fabiano’s cautiously competent Your Tiny Hand Is Frozen suggested a claque at work. But they quietened down as it became obvious that Fabiano is good, but not that good. Yet, anyway.
He has a truly Italianate tone but not enough colour in the voice. He also lacks the kind of amplitude needed to dominate a house as big as Covent Garden the way Joseph Calleja did at the Royal Opera in 2015. That, with Anna Netrebko as Mimi, was a much more full-blooded affair. In this one I kept wanting to turn up the volume, as a bunch of small voices failed to overwhelm, while also turning down the garish lighting. Fabiano, if he keeps a level head and refuses to be crowned before he is king, might yet make the really big time. But none of the others will. Nicole Car as Mimi is better than a fellow Aussie’s half-time verdict – ‘A strapping Australian girl better suited to A Town Like Alice than La Bohème’ – but not much. She’s really too inexperienced for such a role here, and there’s no real evidence of a truly high-quality voice. The Bohemians are a dull lot, especially Mariusz Kwiecien’s dour, unidiomatic Marcello, while Simona Mihai’s Musetta in her big Café Momus scene is just embarrassing. We wanted Mae West and we got Theresa May. Even when she started waving her knickers around, it wasn’t sexy. If you want an out-there Musetta, go to one of Joyce El-Khoury’s nights. Richard Jones and his team needed to be on top form to make us forget the longrunning John Copley production, which started in 1974 and was revived 25 times, with its magnificent sets by the late Julia Trevelyan Oman. But they’re not. Act I is played out in a sort of flat-pack rabbit hutch with a hole in the roof and a ladder sticking through it, despite the Bohemians supposedly being in a garret, freezing to death. Act II is a mess, with revolving sets that, despite their obvious expense, fail to create the atmosphere of the old show. Jones’s production is strangely oldfashioned. For a director of his exceptional talent, this is a major disappointment, and a serious missed opportunity.
Michael Fabiano as Rodolfo and Nicole Car as Mimi
Wyn Pencarreg as Alcindoro and Simona Mihai as Musetta