PUCCINI: La Boheme (complete opera), Blu-ray (2013)Performers: Gal James (Mimi)/Aquiles Machado (Rodolfo)/ Massimo Cavalletti (Marcello)/ Carmen Romeu (Musetta)/ Mattia Olivieri (Schaunard)/ Gianluca Buratto (Colline)/Matteo Peirone (Benoit)/ Cor de la Generalitat Valenciana/ Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana/ Riccardo Chailly Producer: Paul Smaczny Director: Michael Beyer Studio: Accentus Music (Unitel Classica) 10283 [Distr. by Naxos] Video: Full 1080i HD – 16:9 color Audio: PCM Stereo, DTS-HD MA Surround Subtitles: German, English, French, Italian, Korean No Region Code Extra: The Making of La Boheme in Valencia (20 minutes) Length: 114:13 minutes
Yes, this is the site of the now-famous Valencia Ring cycle. So I wasn’t sure what to expect with this most beloved of Puccini operas. There is some technical wizardry with giant screens and such, but it all fits amazingly into the context of this subtle opera, and that is a testament to the collaborators.Boheme is of course the opera that, after ten years of trying, finally launched Puccini into a major operatic career, and essentially made him a very wealthy man. The young 29-year-old Toscanini conducted the premiere, and the piece, so taken for granted now, established itself rapidly into the repertory, almost bypassing notice of the many innovations and advancements to the art that are contained therein. Never before had such almost unnoticed whisperings of passion, love, and pathos been present in a “grand” opera format. But the composer, who had experience of these things in his younger years, wrote of what he knew, and followed unerringly infallible instincts in setting down this most tragic of love stories.
Israeli soprano Gal James is the revelation here, turning in a performance that is vocally secure and dramatically riveting. While it took me a while to get used to the peculiar—and some might not like it—unusual vocal timbre of tenor Aquiles Machado, his acting and fine overall presentation won me over, though I can’t say he is my preferred tenor in this work. The Marcello of Massimo Cavalletti is solid from beginning to end and Carmen Romeu’s Musetta works very well. The Valencia Orchestra is in many ways the star of this show however; Chailly’s many discoveries in balance and the exquisite layering of the orchestration is used to grand effect and makes for a very colorful experience. Though his reading is quick, it all feels quite natural and never rushed or inconsiderate. The Blu-ray sound is stunning and impactful, while the visuals simply can’t be imagined any better in this live performance. This could become my preferred Boheme video, though I still love the intimacy and beauties of the Netrebko/ Villazon movie version. Well worth an acquisition if the spirit so moves.