One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,416 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider


paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas
All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Clarissa Bevilacqua plays
Augusta Read Thomas

all Nimbus reviews

Brahms Dvorak
Brahms 2 Dvorak 7
all tudor reviews



Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Discs for review may be sent to:
Jonathan Woolf
76 Lushes Road
Essex IG10 3QB
United Kingdom



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Recordings of the Month

October 2022

Berg Violin Concerto
Violin Concerto Elmes

DEbussy Jeux
Debussy Jeux

Romantic pioano masters
Romantic Piano Masters

The future is female - Vol 2
Volume 2 - The Dance

impromptu harp music
Complete Harp Impromptus

September 2022
Nikolai Medtner
Herbert Blomstedt
Tarrodi Four Elements
Secret Love Letters
Lisa Batiashvili




CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS

Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
La Bohème (1896)
Mimì - Teresa Stratas (soprano)
Rodolfo - José Carreras (tenor)
Musetta - Renata Scotto (soprano)
Marcello - Richard Stilwell (baritone)
Schaunard - Allan Monk (baritone)
Colline - James Morris (bass)
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus/James Levine
Production: Franco Zeffirelli
rec. Metropolitan Opera, New York, January 1982.
Stereo: PCM / Surround: DTS 5.1; NTSC; Picture Format: 4:3; Region 0
Subtitles: Italian/German/English/French/Spanish/Chinese
A production of Metropolitan Opera Association, Inc.
Booklet with notes and synopsis
With bonuses: ‘Zeffirelli on La Bohème’; Puccini in America; Picture Gallery.
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 0734539 [125:00 + 30:00]

Experience Classicsonline

James Levine’s 1977 La Bohème from the Metropolitan Opera has been available for some time on DVD: 000440 073 40257 – why do DVD catalogue numbers have to be so long? Robert Farr thought that it provided a valuable historical perspective but that it couldn’t stand as the sole Bohème in anyone’s collection. To be fair, others have been more taken with this version, even to the extent of recommending it as the DVD recording of choice.

Nevertheless, I take RF’s point that no one version can ever represent everything that Bohème has to offer. The new CD isn’t my only version, with Victoria de los Angeles, Jussi Björling and Sir Thomas Beecham, in decent but dryish mono, my version of choice, and the Decca recording with Mirella Freni, Luciano Pavarotti and Herbert von Karajan a very close rival, in much better sound. Another Levine recording – he’s something of a pluralist in this work – again with Renata Scotto, but as Mimì (EMI, 1979), features as third choice, giving me an interesting chance to see how the later 1982 version shapes up, with Renata Scotto downsizing from Mimì to Musetta, replaced in the star role by Teresa Stratas, and with José Carreras as Rodolfo.

I’m going to put the singers on the backburner for the moment. The chief appeal of this new DVD for many will be the stupendous set: a bright orange sticker on the front of the box proclaims that this is ‘Zeffirelli’s legendary 1981 Met staging’ and an excerpt from the Christian Science Monitor proclaims the pre-eminence of the production ahead of a second, from the New York magazine, reporting Stratas to be the ideal Mimì.

Indeed, no sooner has the curtain risen for Act I than the audience applauds Zeffirelli’s set and that for Act II receives an even bigger round of applause. Spectacle is the essence of this production of Act II, with huge crowds, stilt walkers and a military band. There is always a danger that the spectacle will steal the show and, indeed, there are times when Stratas in particular has difficulty making herself heard, but at least Zeffirelli keeps us in 19th-century Paris and doesn’t distract us with the kind of extraneous settings which have become all too fashionable in opera since 1982.

It’s a shame that the recording is in 4:3 format. If played straight, it looks boxed in, with large black areas around it on a wide-screen television. Most HD-ready sets will allow you to set a 16:9 zoom which loses a little of the picture top and bottom – it’s called ‘wide zoom’ on Samsung – and, in this form, with upscaling if your set has the feature, the result is impressive for its age, if a little grainy. You won’t mistake it for the latest blu-ray but it won’t detract from your enjoyment of the performance. One of RF’s reservations about the earlier DVD concerned the primitive camera techniques; I think he would be much happier with the 1982 version.

Renata Scotto’s Mimì on the 1979 Levine recording is still well worth hearing – see Robert Farr’s review of the highlights from the set on Encore – but there are moments of strain in a voice which could have made a much more secure recording of that role a few years earlier. Listening to her singing Sì. Mi chiamano Mimì on the 1979 Levine recording alongside Stratas’s rendition reveals the undoubted superiority of the latter.

Three years later, on DVD, by then 48, she dazzles as Musetta in Act II, but chiefly by the force of her acting. The voice is still impressive but at times it becomes squally; of course, Musetta’s behaviour is squally, but the voice should not, ideally, follow suit. Nevertheless, the riotous applause at the end of the act, for Scotto as much as for anyone, is well deserved; as this presumably heralded the interval, it has to be faded out before, I imagine, going on for ever. RF praised Scotto’s acting as Mimì on the earlier DVD; here she virtually acts everyone else off the stage – no mean feat when Zeferelli has assembled a cast of thousands.

If Scotto would have been rather too old to play Mimì in 1982, Teresa Stratas, too, born in 1938, was no young thing either; this production was the last time that she sang the role. The make-up artists do their best to convince us that this is a youthful Mimì but the close-ups of the wrinkled brow tell a different story. The art of opera is to make us believe the improbable and it’s the singing and the acting, especially the former, which count in that respect and she doesn’t disappoint. That bright orange sticker on the front of the box refers to her ‘exquisitely modulated’ singing and I cannot demur. She had been singing the role since the late 1950s, so the music was well and truly in her blood.

José Carreras may have been almost a decade younger than his leading lady but he, too, was no stranger to this opera, having sung the role of the boy soprano at the age of 11 and having performed opposite Katia Riccarelli some ten years before this Met recording. Highlights from his 1979 recording with Ricciarelli and Colin Davis are available on Eloquence 468 1372; the complete set, formerly on Philips Duo, is deleted, though some dealers still seem to have copies. On that recording Carreras was in fine voice but the performance as a whole was generally thought unmoving.

In 1982 Carreras remained in good voice but there is no longer any question that his singing lacks emotion; perhaps because of the live performance, all concerned are highly involved in the action, Carreras no less than the others. RF decried Pavarotti’s acting on the earlier set; Carreras may not be in the Royal Shakespeare Company league, but he and the others get themselves dramatically into their roles.

There is no doubt that the occasion brings out a performance that could never have been achieved in the studio. The disadvantages, of course, are that the action is constantly delayed by applause after the set-piece arias, which becomes a little tiring after the first playing, and the recording is not as well balanced as a studio version. Otherwise the sound is good, especially when played through something better than TV speakers. I actually keep a DVD player connected to my main audio system because I often like to hear opera DVDs in audio only through good equipment; heard without the visual cues, the voices are slightly backwardly balanced but the general soundstage is otherwise convincingly represented.

All those rounds of applause which delay the action are well merited. The two principals sing as well as any that I’ve heard in their roles, apart from de los Angeles and Björling or Freni and Pavarotti, and they are well supported, not only by Richard Stilwell as Marcello and Renata Scotto as Musetta, the latter with the reservations about Act II, but also by Allan Monk as Schaunard and James Morris as Colline, whose aria to his old coat receives one of those well-deserved plaudits.

If the singing is a strong point, the acting is not far behind. It always stretches credulity to see Rodolfo and Mimì in plain view supposedly groping around in the dark in Act I, of course, but such things are inevitable in opera. That cinemascope set more than makes up for any lack of verisimilitude: the garret and surrounding rooftops in Acts I and IV are convincingly represented; the set for Act II, as I’ve indicated is stupendous, as is Act III, complete with genuine snow storm. Act IV, back in the garret, is, of course, inevitably sentimental, but it need not be mawkishly sentimental and over-sentimentality is avoided here: there’s no over-the-top acting and no overdone effects in the singing.

I’ve almost forgotten to mention James Levine’s contribution; it’s just so ‘right’ as to be unobtrusive. RF thought him lacking on the earlier DVD some of the characteristic strengths which he brought to Verdi; he seems to have been a fast learner in the intervening years – but he had had a good deal of practice in those five years.

The booklet is as good as any that I’ve seen with a DVD, which means that it’s less comprehensive than one would expect with a CD set. There is no libretto but there are detailed synopses in three languages and the subtitles in English, German, French, Spanish and ‘Chinese’ (presumably Mandarin) largely take its place – though I would still like to have the option of watching the original Italian and English translation simultaneously. Surely modern technology could give us that.

Of making many Bohèmes there seems to be no end, on both CD and DVD, but the oldies are still the best: you won’t find anything much better on DVD than this new reissue. I still want to back it up with a good audio version and there’s an embarrassment of choice here, with the Angeles-Björling-Beecham on EMI and Freni-Pavarotti-Karajan on Decca heading the list. The Beecham is available inexpensively from EMI and Naxos and as a superb download bargain from Past Classics, just four tracks for less than £1 from eMusic. The Karajan was reissued for the nth time recently, still at full price, and Len Mullenger made it one of his choices for 2008 Recordings of the Year (478 0254 – see also Göran Forsling’s review). At around £24, it’s more expensive than the new DVD, but it comes in luxury packaging. Levine’s 1979 recording with Scotto and Kraus offers a good bargain now on Classics for Pleasure (3677152, around £8 in the UK) but is outshone by Beecham, Karajan and the new DVD.

If cost is a factor, the 2008 re-mastering of the Karajan, including the bonus interview, but minus the accompanying book, is available for £15.99 as a download from It sounds well in good mp3. But £15.99 is not much less than the price of the new DVD, on special offer from one dealer currently for slightly less than that. Whatever you choose with which to supplement it – if anything – you may buy the DVD with confidence. It’s a strong contender in a competitive market.

Brian Wilson


Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.