Opera Scotland

Bohème 2016Swansea City Opera

Read more about the opera Bohème

It is now ten years since Opera Box took the name Swansea City Opera to reflect their sponsorship. The company is again on a national tour. They tour an area from Devon to Middlesbrough quite intensively, this year at twenty-four locations. They always seem to travel up to Scotland for one extra night, often to Pitlochry Festival Theatre, a venue that suits their company very well. The auditorium lacks a pit, but, as with the theatre's own musical-led season, a small band can fit in easily behind the scenes.

For this tour the opera on offer is Puccini's La bohème, always welcome. The lush orchestration was edited by the company's Musical Director John Beswick for a reduced band of nine players - a string quintet, a trio of winds (flute/piccolo, clarinet, bassoon) and keyboard. The result was generally effective, perhaps only noticeably lacking in volume during the more emotional climaxes. A feature of this tour is the participation of a small group of local amateurs to provide a chorus for the café and customs scenes - an excellent idea.

Director Brendan Wheatley decided to update the work in a way that worked unusually well. By setting it in Paris at the time of the liberation in 1945, the food shortages and health problems were immediately credible. With penicillin not yet generally available, TB was still a recognized endemic threat. The whole set up was reminiscent of Sartre's classic Roads to Freedom. There were other clever touches - having Alcindoro as a bewildered US Army officer worked well. The lines of Parpignol the toy-seller were taken by an omnipresent waiter character in the café.

There were some particularly good performances. Mimì and Musetta were clearly distinguished. Rebecca Goulden was always sweet-toned but her soprano also had the kind of depth that the role of Mimi needs, and she was a subtle actress. Angharad Morgan's voice was brighter, but never shrill, and her platinum-blonde Musetta also looked ideal. The men generally blended well as a quartet, with Håkan Vramsmo's Marcello particularly good. Shaun Dixon, as Rodolfo, took a while to gauge the size of the house, and was a bit loud in the early acts - but his projection settled down nicely after the interval. It was good to be re-acquainted with Paul Hudson - a veteran of performances with WNO, ENO and Covent Garden, but hardly ever seen in Scotland. He had the usual roles involving doubling of landlord and sugar-daddy, but also gave us a sharply-etched gendarme. The conductor was the company's Assistant Musical Director, Harry Sever, in what was John Beswick's only scheduled night off during the tour. All went well.

This visit by the company from Swansea seems to be now a regular event, and a definite highlight of Pitlochry's 'close' seasons.

Performance Cast

Rodolfo a poet

Shaun Dixon

Marcello a painter

Håkan Vramsmo

Colline a philosopher

Marcin Gesla

Schaunard a musician

Mark Saberton

Benoit the students' landlord

Paul Hudson

Mimì a seamstress

Rebecca Goulden

Musetta a grisette

Angharad Morgan

Alcindoro a wealthy follower of Musetta

Paul Hudson

Custom-house Sergeant

Paul Hudson

Performance DatesBohème 2016

Map List

Festival Theatre, Pitlochry | Pitlochry

12 Mar, 19.30

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