Opera Scotland

Bohème 2015English Touring Opera

Read more about the opera Bohème

It is many years since English Touring Opera last staged Puccini's famous work, certainly not in the fifteen years that they have been coming to Perth. This year, with the redevelopment of Perth Theatre continuing, it was performed in Perth Concert Hall. The stage facilities there were revealed last year to be perfectly adequate for The Magic Flute, and Bohème also worked quite well. The great advantage was a spacious orchestra pit with plenty of room for the band ETO tours with. A second benefit was the ability to sell more tickets for this single performance than the theatre would accommodate in two.

There were, however, two main disadvantages. The basic stage facilities ensured a minimalist production, which proved to be a problem only in the café scene. The second was simply the fact that, as with last year, Perth audiences missed out on the more interesting and unusual repertoire in which ETO specializes, and which could have attracted audiences from the other Scottish cities. Last year these were an uncompromising masterpiece by Tippett (King Priam) and a delightfully frivolous Broadway-style musical by Britten (Paul Bunyan). This year there could have been two little-known works by Donizetti - increasingly recognized as one of the most important masters of romantic opera. The Siege of Calais was seen here two years ago, but The Wild Man of the West Indies, highly praised at the start of this tour, is an unknown work, the Scottish premiere of which could have been an important event for the Festival.

The Bohème was a full production with 1840s period scenery and costumes, and a 25-player orchestra in the pit. It has to be admitted that the reduced orchestration with its under-nourished string sound perhaps affects Puccini more than some other composers, but Michael Rosewell still drew some lovely sounds from the band. The set was, inevitably, skimpy, and in the Café scene looked cramped and distinctly unfestive. But this scene did feature an excellent twelve-strong group of young singers from Oakbank School in Perth, recruited especally to sing the chorus of street urchins. Here there was a further imaginative touch, with the toy-seller Parpignol (under the name Pa'guignol, presumably retrieved from the original Murger source) represented as a Punch and Judy man complete with puppets.

Several of the singers were familiar, and the four major roles were double-cast for the tour. The four not seen in Perth were Robyn Lyn Evans, Grant Doyle, Paula Sides and Donna Bateman. Our quartet were all good, the most familiar being Nicholas Lester as a lanky and characterful Marcello. Ilona Domnich's Mimì was movingly acted as her health collapsed in the third act, and Sky Ingram was also a touching Musetta. David Butt Philip initially misjudged the size of the hall, but quickly turned down the volume and made an excellent Rodolfo.


Performance Cast

Rodolfo a poet

David Butt Philip

Marcello a painter

Nicholas Lester

Colline a philosopher

Matthew Still

Schaunard a musician

Njabulo Madlala

Benoit the students' landlord

Adam Player

Mimì a seamstress

Ilona Domnich

Parpignol a toy vendor

Dominic J Walsh

Musetta a grisette

Sky Ingram

Alcindoro a wealthy follower of Musetta

Andrew Glover

Custom-house Sergeant

Gareth Brynmor John

Performance DatesBohème 2015

Map List

Perth Concert Hall | Perth

21 May, 19.30

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