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  • Your Reaction: What did you think of Puccini's La bohème?

Your Reaction: What did you think of Puccini's La bohème?

Audience responses and press reviews of Richard Jones' hotly-anticipated new Royal Opera production which opened the 2017/18 Season.

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

11 September 2017 at 10.43pm | 49 Comments

Press reviews:
Independent ★★★★★
Telegraph ★★★★
Evening Standard ★★★★
Express ★★★★
The Stage ★★★★
WhatsOnStage ★★★★
Guardian ★★★
Times (£) ★★★
Financial Times ★★★
Arts Desk ★★★
Bachtrack ★★★

What did you think of The Royal Opera's La bohème?

La bohème runs until 10 October 2017. Tickets are still available.

It is a co-production with Teatro Real, Madrid and Lyric Opera of Chicago. It is staged with generous philanthropic support from Mrs Aline Foriel-Destezet, Mrs Susan A. Olde OBE, Beth Madison, The Royal Opera House Endowment Fund and The American Friends of Covent Garden.

The opera will be relayed live to cinemas around the world on 3 October 2017. Find your nearest cinema and sign up to our mailing list.

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

11 September 2017 at 10.43pm

This article has been categorised Opera and tagged by Richard Jones, La bohème, Production, Puccini, review, your reaction

This article has 49 comments

  1. Michael de Navarro responded on 11 September 2017 at 11:01pm Reply

    I am a veteran of the previous classic production which I saw in its first and penultimate runs and several times in between, so I went with some apprehension (previous replacements of classic productions such as Don Carlo and Tosca have not quite done it for me). This one did. I liked the sets and it was very well sung and, of course, beautifully played but the key was that the cast were all utterly believable as people. Whilst it is invidious to single one singer out from an excellent cast, i found Nicole Car very moving - up there with Cotrubas here and Scherbachenko at Glyndebourne. Thank you, Richard Jones and ROH

  2. Stephen Jay-Taylor responded on 12 September 2017 at 3:01am Reply

    The outer acts set in the attic look like a touring production of "Oklahoma!" sponsored by IKEA, all blond wood, ridiculously brightly lit, and so shallow and squat in design that the cast have nowhere even to stand (let alone sleep four) other than to line up at the front, where they still can't be seen by anyone in the upper reaches of the house because of the set's low cluster of beams. Act Two's three sets - to, at, and from the Café Momus - are so clunkily manoeuvred by armies of visible stage hands and electricians behind clutching bundles of cables that it looks amateurishly comical (perhaps the intention?). And the rather faltering progress upstage of the bar at the Barriere d'enfer during the quartet is bizarrely distracting.

    Musically it's pretty strong, though Fabiano avoids trouble by taking his Act One aria down a tone, and takes the lower option at the act end, leaving Car to sing a very screechy and snatched-at C indeed. Not a patch on the last revival with Netrebko and Calleja in 2015, alas.

    • Jane green responded on 21 September 2017 at 12:18am

      I totally agree with all you have said. The " snatched at C " was also rather sharp! It was all rather a disappointment.

    • Jean Michel responded on 21 September 2017 at 9:54pm

      Fabiano didn't transpose his aria and delivered a high C (maybe not a very beautiful one, but the note was there).

    • Jean Michel Pennetier responded on 22 September 2017 at 5:12pm

      Last saturday, Fabiano delivered a high C in his aria. There was no transposition at all.

  3. Peter Lewis responded on 12 September 2017 at 8:26am Reply

    As I tweeted last night, I enjoyed the freshness of these youngish singers who made for an enjoyable evening. The production was generally fine though it seems most of the set and production budget went in the 20 minute second act. Seeing scenes moving around like that is technically impressive though visually not so.
    As for the snow which continually fell, I wouldn't want to be the person who swept that up every night!!

  4. Nellie Schepers responded on 12 September 2017 at 9:33am Reply

    Nice and glad to read all these reviews. Can't visit Londen but very lokking forward to the live broadcasting on oktober 3th,

  5. Nellie, I do believe you just reviewed the reviews!

  6. Brendan Quinn responded on 13 September 2017 at 8:05am Reply

    Difficult to replace a timeless masterpiece (the previous production) so always a tough call. You have to ask what have we gained from this new production? it seems whilst this one is acceptable, we have not actually gained a lot. This always raises the issue of, Why bother when resources could go into something else. The old production would have continued to fill the house such is the allure of Boheme. It is a question of using resources effectively, I question that this fine new production that was not needed does that.

  7. Difficult one. I loved the previous production and saw it a number of times. It was always magical and captured the essence of the piece. This new production, singers and orchestra aside, was fascinating because, from where I sat, so many of the 'workings' were visible and that was in danger of ruining the illusion. But strangely, for me anyway, it didn't. The sight of men with earpieces rolling sets around was odd but act 2 was vibrant with some clever ideas and the overall evening was satisfying visually. The cast were very good, some excellent, and of course the orchestra were superb under Pappano. I know this score well and there were nuances that he found that made it come alive again for me. It was an enjoyable evening.

  8. Samuel responded on 16 September 2017 at 7:02pm Reply

    Hugely disappointing. Whilst the singing was very good, the staging is beyond awful. Ugly, clumsy and clunky set design which is totally impractical and ruins the overall performance. I really can't believe they got rid of the superb Copley production for this hideously designed IKEA inspired substitute. Such a wasted opportunity.

  9. John Rose responded on 16 September 2017 at 9:34pm Reply

    Production OK.. Inoffensive .Acts 2 and 3 the best.
    Singing good to very good
    But after more than 50 years of opera going I've not heard more nuanced or alert Puccini interpretation and playing from this wonderful orchestra and conductor. Quite outstanding!

  10. Margaret P responded on 16 September 2017 at 9:58pm Reply

    Never having seen the previous production I am very interested to read the comments of people who have seen both. The performances today were wonderful but I felt the very 'tight' staging at times detracted from the performances with particular reference to the Cafe Momus scene. Musetta's moment in the spotlight was somewhat overshadowed by the very busy set behind. Still a very enjoyable afternoon, thank you.

  11. John Rose responded on 18 September 2017 at 9:29am Reply

    As a follow-up to last Saturday's brilliant performance, I notice that Pappano is conducting Mahler 2 in Bucharest this coming Friday evening...and then another Boheme at ROH mid-day on Saturday,little more than 12 hours later (allowing for a time difference)!! I wonder if he will be as energised then as he was two days ago? Or will they have a robot conducting...as apparently happened recently at a concert in Italy!....

  12. David O'Brien responded on 18 September 2017 at 9:40am Reply

    The genius of Richard Jones is his ability to draw such incredible acting from the singers. "Suor Angelica "was almost unbearably moving thanks to his detailed work with the actors, and this "Boheme" is too. The casting is as near to ideal as you can wish for ,when acting is given such a huge priority in the operatic balance. I know the opera very well, so do not expect to be moved, but Nicole Car had my eyes welling up almost from the beginning and throughout the afternoon.(Midday is an unkind time for both the cast and audience for a performance like this, which made her achievement all the more remarkable). For once we really could believe these young relationships. Of course, musically, the performance was special.. Pappano is truly magnificent making the score breathe afresh. Both Fabiano and Kwecien sing and act superbly, I am sure this will come over brilliantly in the Screening later this month. But ooh dear, those shaky sets! The slamming of door when kicking Benoit out nearly brought the wall down. Having got the stove hot enough for smoke to come out the chimney (nice touch) no one would be able to touch the flue- but they do without being burned .. .a miracle ! And resting Mimi's pillow on the stove is a major fire- hazard that even in those pre -health and safety awareness days would never happen. And I have never seen so many straight lines since the old Doyly Carte days.. people just do not stand in straight lines! Oh dear! It is this kind of lack of logic that will make repeated visits harder to cope with, especially when new casts lose the wonderful detailed character work currently on display that transcends this performance.

  13. Shaun McKenna responded on 19 September 2017 at 10:27pm Reply

    Loved it. Laughed a lot in the first half, wept bitterly in the second. The quality of the acting distinguishes it from many - it had real depth and subtext, proper music theatre. The design worked for me, apart from the moving pub in act 3 which upstaged the singers who had to pretend not to notice it was sliding away.

  14. peterstephen responded on 20 September 2017 at 12:12am Reply

    Wonderful singing and faultless beautiful music BUT the production failed more than it succeeded. In short: the costumes in the second act were stunning but the characters were stifling close to each other which prevented indivuals from shining. The third act was perfect until the cabin began to creep across the stage! Poignant moments need stillness so the audience can focus on the singing. In the last act poor Mimi was robbed of dignity by being surrounded by infantile graffiti that added nothing to the piece. Give the poor girl a sofa or chaise to lie on. Please!

  15. L Alexander responded on 20 September 2017 at 1:07am Reply

    I have seen the old production at least twice, and was ready for this new vibrant and lovely production. Yes, it was odd to see clanky moving of the sets, but somehow it added to the charm.The shopping arcades set in the second act breathtakingly good and fun. It is the singing that absolutely grabs one's soul and heart, Nicole Car a revelation. Simon Mihaj what fun she is, I just read she will be Mimi later in the run, I would want to come back and see this production again just for her. I also thought Michael Fabiano was terrific. I don't know what some newspaper reviews are talking about referring to lack of chemistry or energy on stage, I did not find that at all. Bravo the ROH, fab effort!

  16. E .Archer responded on 20 September 2017 at 9:14am Reply

    No no no awful attic set could not see performers who has a loft so White and so many clumsy stage hands moving the sets about very distracting.The acting o/ k the singing very good ?Pappano very poor no passion.Would I pay to see again No ! 3/10. 19 th September.

  17. David Coleman responded on 20 September 2017 at 4:28pm Reply

    Much enjoyed performance but new production not an improvement over the old.
    Management needs to tell set designers that there is audience in the lower slips. The attic set was gratuitously obscured for people sitting there. A bit more height and thinner roof trusses would have solved the problem while retaining the design.

  18. B.Kes responded on 20 September 2017 at 4:39pm Reply

    Scenery: The attic scene has a lowish beam across the front with a downward projection in the centre. Please remember all your audience - this meant that faces could at times only be seen from the stalls and lower circles.

  19. I don't know what E. Archer was watching but to describe Pappano as very poor with no passion is quite clearly ridiculous. No one today conducts Puccini like Pappano - he brings out all the nuances in the score and the passion he feels for the music is quite clear. Plus, he brings out the best in the orchestra and in all the singers, constantly encouraging them to achieve more. Puccini was a very precise composer and deserves to be heard with all the nuances Pappano brings, rather than relying on some lazy and sloppy emoting as some people do.

  20. Mark R. responded on 21 September 2017 at 7:55pm Reply

    I loved this new production. It looked fabulous and sounded fantastic. The falling snow is beautiful. The cast and orchestra were excellent. I do hope the problem with the sight lines in Act 1 and 4 plus is sorted out though before next summer, because it was clear that most seats in the upper two levels at the sides would have not seen much. The reviewers would have had seats in the stalls I would guess. This production deserves to stay and I hope to see it many more times.

  21. Ann O'Shaughnessy responded on 21 September 2017 at 8:54pm Reply

    As a regular opera-goer I approach new productions of old favourites with much trepidation. No worries this time. I think it is a mistake to compare productions in this case - the Copley will always be regarded with affection, but Richard Jones has managed to give us a fresh look at this piece and I, for one, loved it. The cast were believable characters, the singing delightful while the orchestra shone under the baton of the Maestro. A most enjoyable performance over-all - thank you ROH.

  22. Nicola Julius responded on 21 September 2017 at 11:44pm Reply

    What an amazing production! It brought to centre stage the intimacy between Rodolfo and Mimi, particularly in the 1st Act. One felt every sentiment of their falling in love, but also with plenty of humour. The old production was beautiful but dated and one always felt a spectator like looking at a detailed Victorian painting. Yes the scenery movement is sometimes clunky but the freshness and modernity of this production makes la Boheme more relevant to this 21st century.

  23. Roz Broome responded on 22 September 2017 at 2:29am Reply

    Regret did not think much of the new production. Loved the snow, but not much else. Do not understand why, with the luxury of the large stage all the action had to be squashed into such small spaces. The attic over-lit; the tiny stove facing away from the audience which reduced the drama of the (two or three) pages being thrown into it; the miming of the painting (why?); the doorway so low that the entrances and exits were awkward for the singers (why?); the central cross beam which obscured the action from some of the audience. The 'waiters' had a real job in the cramped cafe scene, as did everybody else, and Rodolfo and co. got lost in the crowd. The children, rather overdressed for street urchins, seemed to be lined up like an old-fashioned school crocodile. The sliding cardboard pub in Act 3 - ludicrous. The graffiti in Act 4 and poor Mimi half-slumped on a cushion on the floor - surely there would have been a bed in the place .I could go on!

    However, I enjoyed the singing and acting especially from Fabiano and Kwiecien, the latter an excellent Marcello, Car sang sharp when pushed, but I found her a believable Mimi.

    Orchestra, great, as always.

    I was disappointed, but whatever the weaknesses of production or singers it is difficult to spoil Puccini

    • David responded on 22 September 2017 at 10:33am

      I fully agree. I had the same sentiments but you had said it all so I concentrated my comments on other aspects. The only saving grace is that it could have been worse - I still have nightmares about that disastrous production of Idomeneo (and others).

  24. E Shallcross responded on 22 September 2017 at 9:19am Reply

    sadly, for me, the set let down an otherwise excellent production. awful bright and heavy beams dominated the tiny attic, and left Mimi to die sizzling on the stove surrounded by glaringly lit grafitti, the cramped cafe looked silly surrounded by so much usable stage,

    and as for the creeping garden shed...The Paris arcades were magnificent, but felt like Laing's hubris demanded them on his c.v. The cast are to be congratulated for coping so well, but their acting ability must have been constrained by the set. For the record, I have not seen the previous staging.

  25. David responded on 22 September 2017 at 10:30am Reply

    What a waste of money which would have been far better spent on giving us a decent production of something we don't often see at the ROH such as a little performed Verdi, Donizetti or Rossini. The set for Acts 1 and 4 was dire. Far too small and cramped and I pay to see people's faces when they are singing on stage not their heads cut off by beams - for example I never saw Colline throughout the whole of his coat aria. Act 2 staging was a mess and a noisy mess too the way it all trundled in and out. Two halls would have been enough so that Café Momus could have been on stage at the same time. In Act 3 Musetta is supposed to be in the shack which is downstage right yet her off stage singing sounded like it was coming from upstage left. Bizarre. A lot of Musetta's actions in Act 2 were over the top such as climbing over the tables. Singing was OK but I have heard it sung much better on many occasions. I like Bohème and used to come to every revival of the Copley production. I can't see my being motivated to come to future revivals of this unless there is an exceptional cast. The Verona festival has been running two productions of Aida side by side, the 1913 classic one and a new one. I hope the Copley production has just been mothballed rather than destroyed and can be staged as well as the new one. There are generally enough performances of Bohème in a season to justify that.

  26. Peter Holbourne responded on 22 September 2017 at 12:56pm Reply

    The comments above especially item 2 but also No's8,10 ,20 and 24 coincided with our feelings.
    Of course the music,conducting and singing were great but BRING back the previous stage.

  27. Tosh Jones responded on 24 September 2017 at 11:53am Reply

    Some harsh criticism from other reviewers - I thoroughly enjoyed the production's excellent, deeply moving singing (and acting), but there is no doubt the set and lighting departments have some pretty serious problems to address. Lighting in Act 1 and 4 are fiendishly bright making dialogue about the darkness confusing at best, laughable at worst. The creeping shed actually caused titters of mirth amongst those of us up in the gods. The singing is hampered in the cafe scene by the mad scraping of chairs throughout. Couldn't somebody have put some felt on the feet? And I agree with a previous reviewer that the amount of staging was totally unnecessary - very pretty halls but I spent most of the time trying to find the singers amongst the unhelpful crowds.

  28. Helen Anderson responded on 25 September 2017 at 12:05pm Reply

    Was at the matinee on Saturday and thought it was exquisite. I had seen the previous production twice but liked the freshness of this production. I can understand some of the comments made about the sets etc but I was entranced. Maestro Pappano and the orchestra were magnificent- the singers seemed young vibrant and with beautiful voices. The snow was gorgeous and I think with a bit of tweaking this production could last a long time. Well done to all and thank you.

  29. Lawrie responded on 25 September 2017 at 11:10pm Reply

    We were, sadly, underwhelmed and disappointed with this production Why with such wonderful space did the set designers close down the set in Act 1. Why the door that was distracting for the singers and the audience? Why so bright? Why no furniture which led to the singers standing in straight lines. The walking building! Why on earth do this to La Boheme? It doesn't deserve it. Why the puerile graffiti that remained to overlook Mimi's demise? The set and its major distractions removed the enjoyment from the music. Will think twice before going back to the ROH.

  30. Borech responded on 26 September 2017 at 5:58pm Reply

    I saw the production last night. I would only wish to comment on two points alrady made
    1. The constricted attic and its beams. These obstructed the view from the lower amphitheatre. Do the director and designer not look at the set from ALL vantage points in the House? If not why not? Someone from the ROH should address this point, which has now been made several times above. The critics get seats in the stalls, so they are unlikely to notice.

    2 The slowly- moving cabin/bar was more than distracting. From above, it looked like a Terry Gilliam Monty Python moment!

  31. Stephen Cutler responded on 30 September 2017 at 10:59am Reply

    Is it that the director doesn’t understand Italian, or that he just thinks the audience won’t. ‘Cercar che giova? Al buio non si trova’ sings Rodolfo. ‘We won’t find anything in the dark.’ Yet the Ikea attic (assuming you are in a seat where you can actually see it) is flooded in full light. Why would you light candles in a brilliantly lit room? What sense does it make? None at all. And all the magic of the scene, which was perfectly captured in the Copley production, is lost. And that Café Momus, transformed from a cheap dive where penniless artists used to go to keep warm, becomes an upmarket restaurant. Why would poor artists who later have to make do with a baguette and a fish go on the spur of the moment to such a place? What a waste of money, when you have something as near perfect as the Copley production, to replace it with this.

  32. Philip responded on 30 September 2017 at 3:21pm Reply

    Like others here, I had seen the previous production of Boheme many times and so was excited - and nervous - to see this new production. On the plus side, the singing was exceptionally good, with all of the main roles sung beautifully. It was also well acted, funny, moving and believable. However, the staging too often meant that one's concentration was drawn from the singing to what was happening on stage. The worst example came at the most poignant moment in the third act, as Rodolfo and Mimi were in full flow and the pub and brazier started moving. At first I was sure I was hallucinating. Why was this thought to be a good idea? Simply to make the change to act 4 slicker? But it completely spoiled the end of the third act, already rendered comical by the workers singing "it's snowing here" - and the audience thinking, yes, it has been all evening. Similarly, the unnecessary three scene changes for act 2, which resulted in all of the singers being squashed on the front of the cafe scene, with waiters and others struggling to get past. Musetta's aria on top of the table seemed pretty insignificant with all the other action going on - and why were there crowds of people at the back of the cafe looking in? The whole thing certainly looked new and fresh, but the staging should not get in the way of the music, and here there were moments where it most certainly did.

  33. Charles Evans responded on 4 October 2017 at 9:15am Reply

    Watching in the cinema. I don't want to be told before the piece about it, see excerpts of what I am about to see and told bits of the story. The production is failing if you have to have it explained! The excitement of discovery is snatched away by the (very nice) commentator. Please just give us the show, possibly followed by the commentary. Very good production at times hurt by the blandness of the set and why did it have to start moving during the wonderful scene in the snow? Totally distracting! Wonderful understudy.

  34. I thought is was superb the voices of the leading performers were magnificent they took you to extreme heights of sheer magnificence. I woul definitely see it again.

  35. Maureen Bridge responded on 4 October 2017 at 10:46pm Reply

    I loved this new production of La Boheme. Puccini's music always touches my heart and it has never sounded more enchanting. I loved the young cast, the voices were magnificent and, unlike many of the reviews above, I found the staging fresh and new and wonderful.

  36. Vincent responded on 4 October 2017 at 11:27pm Reply

    Having read the comments above, I am glad I watched the production yesterday in the cinema. Perhaps the director was too influenced by the prospect of close up camera and therefore need for TV style lighting? On screen it was magnificent; acting and singing. Outstanding performance of Marcello and Pappano just brilliant!

  37. Jane lubbock responded on 5 October 2017 at 6:37am Reply

    Congratulations. I felt as if I had been transported to a higher plain. Emotional and charming with superb singing. I adored it all.
    My compliments to all involved.

  38. John R. Helliwell responded on 5 October 2017 at 10:39am Reply

    Saw the live stream in Hartley Whintney last night. Loved this new fresh production and especially the wonderful acting and singing from Fabiano and Car. The moving cabin was a little distracting but did not affect my overall pleasure of the performance. Live stream is fantastic!!

  39. Rosemary Bechler responded on 7 October 2017 at 8:22pm Reply

    This was a wonderful Chekhovian production in its compassionate attention to detail, caring about what the music cares about, and allowing the yearning people to live their bewildered and intense lives in all the companionship and loneliness that people do. Bravo for a wonderful evening with plenty to ravish the senses.

  40. Linda Kenny responded on 8 October 2017 at 6:01pm Reply

    I have just returned from seeing Puccini's La Boheme at my local theater where it was beamed in live from the Royal Opera House. It left me emotionally wrung out but in a very good way! Puccini''s genius, the amazing singers, the sets, everything was awesome. A fabulous experience. Being able to see it in my local cinema/theater was the best. I'd say it adds to the experience because you get close ups of the leading singers adding to the emotion, and subtitles interpreting the lyrics was brilliant because it also tells the story. I loved it. Well done to everyone involved in this production and thank you very much for a beautiful experience.

  41. Brendan Quinn responded on 8 October 2017 at 10:40pm Reply

    Saw the Copley production several times. got mixed feelings about this new one. I don't think it is an improvement. A lot has been said about Act 2. Three scene changes in a 20 minute act is ludicrous. Cafe Momus was cramped and everyone literally in on top of each other. I'm not sure it is very latin quarter either, white table clothes and fine dining, not the kind of local bistro a bunch of impoverished bohemians might use when the do have a few quid in their pockets. I'm simply not convinced by this production or what has been gained by changing what existed already. The singing on Saturday 7th was OK a good standard you would expect at ROH, I'm a big fan of Fabiano, but he did't go for a couple of notes (notably end of Act 1), Nicole Car isn't Netrebko.... I came out thinking it was an OK Boheme, yes I would recommend people go see it, but wouldn't rush back for it.

  42. neil blkackshaw responded on 9 October 2017 at 7:56pm Reply

    Unfortunately unable to get to ROH and listened to the 9th oct performance on radio 3. Thus I can't comment on the 'production' comments already made. But I can't possibly agree with the criticism of the performance. I was astonished. Magnificent palsying and marvellous singing. The ensemble delivered a totally convincing and utterly moving La Boheme.

  43. Laura Lee responded on 10 October 2017 at 8:02am Reply

    I was very disappointed by this production. No chemistry between Rodolfo and Mimi. He had a lovely voice, not keen on her’s. Crowd scenes far too crowded. I couldn’t see main characters often. The action all cramped in to a tight space to give room for unnecessary gawpers, looking through the windows!! Death scene ruined by Mimì perching against a (hot?)stove corner?!?! Why didn’t Car protest in rehearsals? The cast were meant to be young? I thought they seemed stolid and middle aged - and i’m a pensioner! Orchestra and conductor superb, their efforts nearly ruined by all the other goings on. I shall not be recommending this production to friends.

  44. Brendan Quinn responded on 11 October 2017 at 11:10pm Reply

    Been thinking about this Boheme, and just watching a recording of the Copley production on TV stored to keep on my sky box. Why oh why did they bother changing it! The same could be said of the old Tosca, of the Meistersinger. I won't be rushing back for this Boheme and I saw the Copley one god knows how many times, the new Meistersinger I will never go to again, as for Lucia!!!! Just look how many tickets are left for only its second revival. If it ain't broke don't fix it! ENO found this out to their cost with that Rigoletto they presented three years ago, only to revive , the Miller production, people will flock back to see great productions! and use the resources wisely to produce really great productions of other operas. Please please please bring back the Copley production we all loved it! This new one is really a second rate touring production.

  45. Peter Benz responded on 2 November 2017 at 12:29am Reply

    Detroit Michigan admires the desire to improve one's position using great art. Well done.

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