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Friday, 18 April 2014

Friday's French music break - Angela Gheorghiu and Piotr Beczała, "La bohéme"



True to form this week's Friday's French music break isn't exactly...er...French.

Still, the setting of Italian composer Giacomo Puccini's 1896 (yep, bang up to date) opera "La bohème" is Paris (the Latin quarter to be exact) and what is probably one of his best-known and popular works has just finished the first of two runs at l'Opéra Bastille.

Setting the opera in the 1930s as the (now 20-year-old) Jonathan Miller production does, might have upset some aficionados down the years, but quite frankly with Romanian soprano (and ace diva) Angela Gheorghui up there on stage as Mimi, supported by Polish tenor Piotr Beczała as Rudolfo, who gives a damn?

The pair reprise the roles they performed together in San Francisco five years ago.

Angela Gheorghiu and Piotr Beczała (screenshot from San Francisco Opera preview, 2008)


Angela Gheorghiu and Piotr Beczała (screenshot from San Francisco Opera preview, 2008)


Gheorghui, suitably capricious and coquettish (both vocally and in terms of behavious with nobody quite knowing how she would perform on the night) in a role that has become one of her "fetishes" or signature pieces.

Beczała with a fine voice, but perhaps lacking the resonance of others who've sung the role and finding himself almost competing at times with the orchestra under Israeli conductor  Daniel Oren the

Ah "La bohème"!

Yes the libretto is far from being mindblowing. It's all about romance; "a love affair between a poor poet ( Rudolfo) and an equally hard-up seamstress" (Mimi) - doomed because, although they're made for each other, he's jealous of her flirtatiousness and she has consumption, to which she succumbs in the final act.

That's the not-quite "Brodie's Notes"-like plot version. Full of melodrama and lacking the great themes of some of Puccini's other works perhaps.

But - and it's a big but - "La bohème" is stuffed to bursting point with heart-rending arias and the most exquisite arrangements.

Puccini could pen a tune or two!

Anyway, Gheorghui and Beczała's  run came to an end on April 11.

Bravos all round as each member of the cast took their individual bows at regular intervals after the final performance with Gheorghui pausing just long enough to let everyone who was really the star, before making her way on to the stage.

But you can still catch ""La bohéme" at La Bastille in July with another Romanian soprano, Anita Hartig (who made her New York Metropolitan Opera debut debut in the role at the beginning of April) , and Italian tenor, Massimo Giordano, taking over the main roles.

Well worth seeing.

For the moment though, here's a "preview" video clip of excerpts of Gheorghui and Beczała performing in "La Bohème" in San Francisco in 2008.





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