Review of ‘La Boheme’ at Opera di Firenze

I never took the time to post a review on Opera di Firenze’s  La Boheme, which opened in November 2016. Up until then, the operas I had seen in Florence and Bologna fell short, to say the least. It would have been a shame if Puccini’s piece had also been so, but fortunately it wasn’t. It was such an enjoyable experience, and by the end of it I found myself wanting to watch it all over again.

Lorenzo Mariani brought to the Opera di Firenze a humourous, tragic, wonderfully staged, and notable direction of Puccini’s La Boheme in November. However, while the direction and staging of the production deserves applause, the singers were in fact ordinary. They were great, but not amazing. The only two singers to really stand out from the cast were Mimi (Jessica Nuccio), with her soprano voice, and Colline (Gianluca Buratto), singing basso. Rodolfo (Fabio Sartori) and Marcello (Simone Piazzola) did justice to their roles in terms of acting, but were on par when it came to their singing. Perhaps the moment when Rodolfo soared was during his duet with Mimi in the first act called, “O suave fanciulla”.

The set design was cleverly crafted by William Orlandi, who also did a marvelous job on costume design. On specifically the set, this was perhaps the first time I had seen a rotating stage being used with a real sense of purpose. It not only changed the scenery, softly transitioning between the attic to the café and back, but it also served as a device to mark the passing of time. The set was simple enough that it did not deter away from the actors’ performances and their fantastic costumes, but had just enough to give the audience a sense of place. Any more, and it would have been seen as over the top given the size of the cast at the end of Act I with all the kids and the mime.

It might seem odd to some to construct a set where Mimi enters from above. Rather than climbing up stairs, she descends down. However, this can be seen as reflecting the characterization of Mimi as an angel. She sees the group of artists from above whilst holding her candlelight and descending down. In Mimi’s aria, “mi chiamano Mimi,” she says her real name is Lucia, which sounds like the Italian word for light, ‘luce’. With this imagery coupled with her kind heart and fragility, Mimi is seen as an angel, certainly the femme fragile in comparison to Musetta (Laura Tatulescu), the femme fatale.

From the main cast, Colline (Gianluca Buratto) is the only one with a basso voice. The aria, “vecchia zimarra” by Colline who sings with such adoration for his coat, was absolutely stunning and flawless. In my opinion, this aria was the highlight of the night. Musetta had quite a provocative entrance in the staging of her  “quando men vo, valzer,” but on the whole failed to leave a memorable impression. Her voice was adequate, but not extraordinary. Mimi on the other hand, had an angelic voice. It seemed as though Jessica Nuccio was aware of what she was capable of with her own voice, and tried to see how she could adapt to Puccini’s libretto.
I was eager to see how Mimi’s death would be staged. Mariani chose to have Mimi lay on a simple bedding center stage. It was not a big bedding as to dominate the scene, but the spotlight was on her and the other characters turned away from her as she softly fell asleep then died. This, I thought, was delicately staged as her death is imminent, but her presence does not occupy the entire stage. With the simple bedding she has, she is practically lying on the floor whereas a bed would have been too prominent and deterred away from the scenography of the scene. It is when Rodolfo leaves Mimi alone for a moment, that she passes away.  

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