> DVD: Puccini - La Bohème [GPJ]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
La Bohème (1896)
Mimi - Mirella Freni
Musetta - Adriana Martino
Rodolfo - Gianni Raimondi
Marcello - Rolando Panerai
Schaunard - Gianni Maffeo
Colline - Ivo Vinco
Benoit - Carlo Badioli
Alcindoro - Carlo Badioli
Parpignol - Franco Ricciardi
Un doganiere - Carlo Forti
Un fruttivendolo - Angelo Mercuriali
Chorus and orchestra of La Scala Milan/Herbert von Karajan
Directed and designed by Franco Zeffirelli
Recorded at La Scala, Milan 1965
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON DVD 073 027-9 [102:54]

Itís a great relief to come across an opera production which is so unashamedly straightforward, and which concentrates on telling the story as simply and affectingly as possible. This DVD, which brings us a recording that was famous on video for many years, dates all the way back to 1965, but comes up delightfully fresh. Karajan had a wonderful feel for this music, and draws superb playing from the La Scala players. The standard of singing is generally very high, with Mirella Freni at her youthful best, and Raimondi a successful and convincing Rodolfo. The constellation of supporting roles contains excellent cameos from, in particular, Rolando Panerai as an engaging Marcello, and Adriana Martino as a Musetta with undeniable sex appeal. She really steals the show, as she should, in her big second act number.

The great thing is that the cast are all believably young, so that one does not have to suspend disbelief too much. And, given that this is a recording of an actual stage production, it is visually most attractive, with sets that evoke delightfully the Parisian demi-monde of Toulouse-Lautrec and co. Recorded sound is, given its age, most acceptable, though there are some balance problems here and there which arise from the use of stage rather than studio.

I became enthralled and engrossed as I watched this, almost despite myself. This is, of course, one of the best-loved operas of all, and this DVD could become a treasured possession in a vast number of collections.

Gwyn Parry-Jones

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