MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2023
Approaching 60,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

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

CD: Crotchet AmazonUK AmazonUS


Giacomo PUCCINI (1858 – 1924)
La Bohème (1896)
Anna Netrebko (soprano) – Mimi; Rolando Villazon (tenor) – Rodolfo; Nicole Cabell (soprano) – Musetta; Boaz Daniel (baritone) – Marcello; Stéphane Degout (baritone) – Schaunard; Vitalij Kowaljow (bass) – Colline; Tiziano Bracci (bass) – Benoît; Alcindoro; A customs official; Kevin Connors (tenor) – Parpignole; Gerald Häussler (bass) – Customs-house sergeant
Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Kinderchor des Staatstheaters am Gärtnerplatz
Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks/Bertrand de Billy
rec. live, April 2007, Philharmonie im Gasteig, Munich
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 7949 [54:44 + 52:52]
Experience Classicsonline

Just a couple of months ago - I am writing this in mid-December 2008 - I reviewed the reissue of Karajan’s recording of La Bohème on Decca with Mirella Freni, Luciano Pavarotti, Elisabeth Harwood, Rolando Panerai and Nicolai Ghiaurov (read the review here). I finished off the review with the statement ‘This is one of the greatest opera recordings of all times.’ I then made it a ‘Recording of the Month’ and included it among my allotted six choices for ‘Recordings of the Year’.  The only serious contender is the much older Beecham recording with Victoria de los Angeles and Jussi Björling, which will never be redundant but falls short through the rather mediocre sound. I will probably never withdraw my enthusiasm for these two sets but here comes another that goes straight to the winners’ stand. The recording, constituting the soundtrack for Robert Dornhelm’s film, was first issued just months ago and reviewed by Ian Lace and this second issue is identical, but presented in a slim-line box and without libretto. I suppose the target group is those seeing the film and wanting a souvenir.
But it is much more than that. Rarely has this opera been so permeated by youthful freshness, charm and humour but also a sense of real-life report. These characters are no cardboard figures but young people of flesh and blood, leading a joyous but miserable life in the Quartier Latin. I haven’t seen the film and I doubt it has reached these shores but the stills in the booklet seem to tell the same story as the soundtrack does.
Bertrand de Billy keeps the score on the move, being marginally faster than Karajan, but doesn’t underplay the great emotional scenes: the end of act I, most of act III and the second half of act IV. He is wonderfully precise and rhythmically taut in act II, which has been a stumble-block to many conductors.
The cast of soloists is uniformly excellent in what after all is Puccini’s ensemble opera par preference. Columns and columns have been written about the extraordinary rapport between Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon – I reviewed their Manon on DVD recently – and their joint scenes on this recording again show their instinctive feeling for phrases, nuances and understanding of their characters. There is a nervous youthfulness in their dialogue in act I and the arias and duets there and elsewhere have hardly ever been sung with such golden tone and perfect timing. But the rest of the cast are also perfectly attuned to their roles, none more so than Boaz Daniel’s lyrical and extremely well sung Marcello. He is without doubt superior to Robert Merrill’s vocally superb but theatrically all-purpose painter on the Beecham set and he is more elegant than Panerai on the Karajan.

Nicole Cabell, Cardiff Singer of the World winner in 2005, stood out as enormously promising on her debut recital (see review) but she isn’t promising any more; she is as fully fledged a star as could be. On that recital I found some coldness in her voice in Musetta’s waltz song. Maybe she isn’t as alluring as, say, Anna Moffo on the Callas recording but the aria couldn’t be more persuasively sung. Stéphane Degout is as good a Schaunard as Puccini allows him – the role isn’t exactly one of the most grateful vocally – and Vitalij Kowaljow is a warm Colline. Tiziano Bracci doubles as Benoît and Alcindoro, as very often also is the norm on stage, and appears also as a customs official in act III. He makes less of a caricature of the two old men than some singers in the past.
The sound is splendid and I only wondered about the information that it was recorded live. There are no signs of an audience or other distractions, only some footsteps which make dramatic sense anyway.
‘This album compares favorably with the best of all previous La Bohème recordings’, wrote Ian Lace in his review. I agree wholeheartedly.
Göran Forsling

see also reviews by Ian Lace
(different release of same recording) and Robert Farr (highlights)


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 Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

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

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing




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

Past 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

Return to Review Index

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.