Puccini : BohemeNew York, Met, 2010 (Audio)
Director: Marco Armiliato
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For the Boheme´s revival the Met had an exceptional roster of singers, headed by an established star soprano, Anna Netrebko, as Mimi, and an emerging star tenor, Piotr Beczala, as Rodolfo. Ms. Netrebko was the main draw, but in the opera world there is intense interest right now in Mr. Beczala, who made his Met debut in 2006 as the Duke in Verdi’s “Rigoletto.”
Mimi is one of Ms. Netrebko’s best roles, and she was wonderful. She sang whole phrases with an exceptionally rich yet focused sound. But as usual her singing was not flawless. Her approach exposed every slight deviation of pitch. Also true to form, she took great expressive liberties with her singing — sometimes prolonging, sometimes rushing phrases — liberties that the conductor Marco Armiliato was too willing to accommodate.
Quibbles aside, Ms. Netrebko is a major soprano with an alluring voice. Its dark, sensual warmth is ideal for Puccini. On Saturday she shaped phrases poignantly, cresting to top notes that shimmered throughout the house. There were slightly awkward glitches at times as her voice shifted between registers. Still you don’t often hear Mimi sung with such vivid character and sheer charisma.
As an actress Ms. Netrebko can be subtle to a fault, relying perhaps too much on her beauty and stage presence. But her combination of reticence and sensuality work well for Mimi, Puccini’s ailing bohemian seamstress whose outer meekness barely disguises her inner longing.
Mr. Beczala has it in him to be a great tenor, but is not quite there yet. There was both sweet lyricism and pinging intensity in his vibrant singing. He could not wait, it seemed, to dispatch the high-lying phrases of “Che gelida manina.”
It was a charming touch during this aria, when Mr. Beczala’s smitten Rodolfo, explaining himself to the captivated Mimi, awkwardly handed her some of his poems to read, as if to prove he really is a writer full of dreams. With his youthful vitality and physical agility, Mr. Beczala is an effective actor. Yet, as in previous performances, there was a shaky element in his singing. He lacks only security.
The baritone Gerald Finley, last seen at the Met as J. Robert Oppenheimer in John Adams’s “Doctor Atomic” (a riveting portrayal of a role Mr. Finley created), is an immensely gifted and versatile artist and was excellent as the hot-headed painter Marcello. He sang with robust sound, honesty, intelligence and impressive Italian diction.
The soprano Nicole Cabell brought a luminous voice and perky sensuality to Musetta, although, as with many Musettas, she overdid the coquettish bit during “Quando me’n vo,” when this impetuous woman decides to re-ensnare Marcello, her ex-lover.
The Chinese bass-baritone Shenyang was a vocally hardy and earnest, if somewhat stiff, Colline. The Italian baritone Massimo Cavalletti, making his Met debut as Schaunard, certainly brought credentials to the job: he was a member of the young artists program at La Scala and was born in Lucca, Puccini’s hometown. His singing was robust and lively.
He was determined to steal the early scene when Schaunard explains how he came into some money. Mr. Cavalletti sang facing the audience, arms thrust, with his back to the roommates he was supposedly addressing. Over all, though, this was a strong ensemble effort, as any successful “La Bohème” must be.
(Edited from the New York Times)