Saturday, January 19, 2013


By Giacomo Puccini                                                 

Opera Australia - Sydney Opera House until March 23rd 2013

Performance 15th January 2013 reviewed by Bill Stephens
Nicole Car (Mimi), Gianlucca  Terranova (Rodolfo)
Photo: Branco Gaica

Opera Australia commenced their summer season at the Sydney Opera House with a return season of Gale Edwards’ luscious new production of “La Boheme”.  Having seen this production in its first Sydney season with its memorable original cast, whose performances have happily been preserved on DVD, the opportunity to revisit it now that it has seasoned, and with a new set of principals, was irresistible, especially as one of those principals is  former Canberra soprano, Lorina Gore, making her role debut as Musetta, and another was the Italian tenor, Gianluca Terranova, who made such an impression with his first Opera Australia appearances as Alfredo in last year’s spectacular Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour staging of “La Traviata”.

Brian Thomson’s 1930’s Berlin spiegletent setting proves just as impressive on second viewing, allowing, as it does, the depiction of the passage of time, by allowing the audience to see the completion of Marcello’s’ mural, which he had only just commenced in the first act. The spectacular second-act transformation into the interior of the Café Momus is now so confidently executed that one wonders why the combined imaginations of Edwards and Thomson were not able to dream up a similarly imaginative transition between Acts three and four to avoid the holdup which presently interrupts the flow and the magic. 

A second viewing also offered the opportunity to focus on the many imaginative directorial touches, like the way Rodolfo folds his coat to form a pillow for Musetta as they settle by the candlelight, or having the friends cheekily re-use the newspaper wrappings as mock tablecloths as they set up a pretend banquet on planks and ladders in the sparsely furnished studio.

Nicole Car is exquisite as Mimi. Beautiful, fragile and serene, she immediately engages the audience, which holds its collective breath to hang on her every phrase as she imparts her story in a gorgeously sung “They Call Me Mimi”. Throughout the opera her singing and acting never falters so that her finale death scene is almost unbearably moving.

Gianluca Terranova lives up to high expectations as Rodolfo. A fine actor as well as a stunning singer, passionate yet considerate when with Mimi, playful and engaging when interacting with his friends, his thrilling, Italianate tenor soars above the orchestra, and throbs with emotion, especially in the third act when he and Mimi decide to part, and in the final act when his pain at having to watch Mimi die is palpable, his performance is continuously riveting.  
Lorina Gore as Musetta
Photo: Branco Gaica

It would be hard to imagine a more captivating Musetta than Lorina Gore. Flirtatious, wilful and drop- dead gorgeous in the café Momus, provocative and sensuous as she and Marcello quarrel then make love in the snow in Act 3, then a warm and concerned friend in the final scene, hers is a performance to relish.

The role of Marcello is also perfect fit, both vocally and physically, for Samuel Dundas. Blessed with smouldering good looks and rich expressive baritone, he brought depth to his relationship with Musetta, which sizzled and flamed as she taunted and provoked him, and good humour in his interaction with Rodolfo, Schaunard (Shane Lowrencev) and Colline (David Parkin). Both the latter have added depth and detail to their already excellent characterisations.

Over the years Opera Australia have mounted several different productions of “La Boheme”, but few more beautiful than this current version. During this summer season at the Sydney Opera House there will be two more changes of principal cast for this production. It will be fascinating to see what new facets each cast can reveal in this jewel of a production.

Samuel Dundas (Marcello), David Parkin (Colline), Shane Lowrencev (Schaunard)
Lorina Gore (Musetta), Nicole Car (Mimi), Gianluca Terranova (Rodolfo)

Photo: Branco Gaica