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  • ROH Collections Item of the Month: Donald Southern’s starry photographs of La bohème

ROH Collections Item of the Month: Donald Southern’s starry photographs of La bohème

Over 41 years, all the greats – including Plácido Domingo, Kiri Te Kanawa and Luciano Pavarotti – have performed in John Copley’s classic production.

By Catriona Cannon (Former Archivist, ROH Collections)

15 May 2015 at 2.37pm | Comment on this article

ROH Collections is home to thousands of photographs by Donald Southern. His photographs capture all aspects of life at the Royal Opera House, from costume and set designs to performers in rehearsal and on stage. He was also often commissioned to photograph other activities and events at the Royal Opera House, subjects not photographed by anyone else – including the work of various departments such as Education and Wardrobe, visits by members of the Royal family, galas, first night parties, retirement parties and other celebratory events.

Southern originally worked as an assistant to the theatre photographer Houston Rogers in the late 1950s, which formed his first experience of photography in the Royal Opera House. He set up his own studio in 1959/60 and worked as a freelance photographer at Covent Garden from 1960 to the mid-1990s.

The Royal Opera House acquired his collection in 2002 and since then much work has been done carefully to catalogue and rehouse the material – which numbers around 120,000 individual frames spanning a variety of formats – in order to ensure its long-term preservation and make his work available to the public.

To mark the final run of The Royal Opera's classic production of La bohème, directed by John Copley and designed by Julia Trevelyan Oman, we've picked out a selection of our favourite photos by Southern covering performances from the premiere in 1974 to 1984.

Find out more about Donald Southern and highlights from his collection.

La bohème runs 23 May–16 July 2015. Tickets are still available.

The production will be broadcast live to cinemas around the world on 10 June 2015. Find your nearest cinema.

The production is part of BP Big Screens 2015 and will be broadcast live to outdoor screens around the UK for free on 10 June 2015. Find out more.

The production is given with generous philanthropic support from Alfiya and Timur Kuanyshev, Marina Hobson OBE and The Royal Opera House Endowment Fund. Original Production (1974) supported by The Linbury Trust.

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