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Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
La Boheme - Adapted by Kevin Hocking as a ballet
CD 1

Act 1
Garret scene
Mimi's entrance - Rodolfo tells his story
Mimi tells her story
Falling in love duet
Act 2
Cafe Momus
Babette's solo
The Revue - Introduction
The Revue - Divertissement 1
The Revue - Divertissement 2
Rodolfo's dream - Mimi/Rodolfo duet
The Revue - Divertissement 3
The Revue - Divertissement 4
CD 2

Act 2 (continued)
Alcindoro and Musetta enter
Musetta's solo and pas de deux with Marcello
Cafe patrons exit. Tango with Madame Bijoux and Henri
Rodolfo's inebriated hallucination. Mimi and Rodolfo's angry duet
Frontcloth scene. Marcello comforts Mimi
Double duet - Mimi, Rodolfo, Musetta and Marcello go their separate ways till
Act 3
Garret scene, final pas de deux -
Mimi and Rodolfo
Mimi's death
Recorded November 2003, January and February 2004 at Studio 520, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Perth, Western Australia
West Australian Ballet
West Australian Symphony Orchestra/Director Dobbs Franks
ABC CLASSICS 476 199-9[57.46 + 59.05]

 

There is a long and honourable tradition of arranging both spoken theatre and operatic works for performance as ballets. In the latter situation the choreographer will, I hope, know the composer’s music intimately at the inception of the enterprise. He or she will have to work with a musician to change and adapt the music. This will be necessary so that balletic expression can become a worthy substitute not only for the words of the libretto but also for the nuances and dynamics of the score. In adaptation of a spoken-word play the whole of the music must obviously be composed. In this case there appears to be a mixture of these two challenges.

The vision for a ballet based on Puccini’s La Boheme appears to have come from Simon Dow, Artistic Director of West Australian Ballet. His background as a former dancer and actor gave him an informed foundation from which to initiate the project. The booklet note states that he worked alongside Kevin Hocking during the process of re-composition, for that is what is involved. A former pianist, Hocking has diverse experience working in cabaret and T.V. He has orchestrated and conducted many works.

As I listened through the two CDs I was first of all struck by the use of Puccini’s melody and chording. Within that sentence are implicit caveats. First is to recognise that this is not wholly Puccini’s work. As well as composing substantial parts, Hocking has softened some of the characteristic Puccinian dynamics taking away something of the dramatic situations that opera lovers would recognise. This is evident for example in the first scene where the shenanigans of the Bohemians prior to the arrival of their landlord are rather sanitised (CD 1 tr.1). At other times I found the added lyricism and lingering of the tempo appealing as in the act 1 love duet that opera lovers know as O soave fanciulla (CD 1 tr. 4). I have given a full listing of the sections of this ballet arrangement. This will enable lovers of the opera to relate the contents of these discs to the score they know and love. The divertissement and the revue (CD1 trs. 7-12) are also shown. These owe more to Kevin Hocking than Puccini.

The recording quality is clear and open. The orchestra plays with panache under the lyrical guidance of the conductor Dobbs Franks. Personally I would have preferred Puccini’s music without the words to this rather anaemic re-orchestration and additions. I accept that this may be because I am more an opera lover than balletomane. Those who find their satisfactions in ballet may well come to a different conclusion and be able to glory in the softened, more lyrical lines and visualise in their minds appropriate balletic movements. The discs will also provide a memento to all those who attended any of the performances or may do in the future if this arrangement gets wider circulation in the world of dance.

Robert J Farr



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