We all have gaps in our musical education, and one of mine is that despite being a concertgoer for forty years, I had never seen La Boheme in the theatre until Friday evening at the Alexandra Theatre.
It was strange to hear so many well known opera arias finally assembled into their proper theatrical framework, but I found this a moving and a satisfying performance from the Chisinau National Opera in collaboration with the Ukrainian National Opera of Odessa.
Performance and production was confident, with traditional solid sets, many vivid stage pictures, and some fine acting and singing.
Conductor Yuri Golota kept things moving and didn't let the lyrical moments wallow unduly, while the orchestra performed marvels, with sonorous woodwind and warm strings, despite their lack of numbers.
The Bohemians were a very well cast group, with Marcello (Petru Racovita) especially outstanding with a commanding stage presence and fine well rounded voice, a giant next to the diminutive Rodolfo of Ruslan Zinevych.
A suitably Italianate tenor, Zinevych had a tendency to 'stand and deliver' his big moments, somewhat at odds with the ensemble-style acting of the rest of the cast. Their gruff laddishness in the 'ballet' of Act IV made the sudden arrival of the mortally ill Mimi all the more affecting.
The charismatic Elena Gherman effortlessly dominated the stage as Marcello's former girlfriend, Musetta.
She played her as a sort of Zsa Zsa Gabor character, coquettish, but definitely in charge. Irina Vonogradova as Mimi was excellent, with many moments of melting lyricism and a moving simplicity in her acting which made her character entirely believable.
'Old-fashioned' it might have been, but I really enjoyed this heart-warming evening of humour, pathos and despair.