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‘La Bohème’ 2004/05/01

Posted by Dave in Music, nights out, Reviews.

Ambivalence edged with trepidation is not the ideal pre-theatre menu, but that is the deal with 'Scottish Opera' and the 'Theatre Royal' lately.

Oh-for-the-old-days of 1990! Back then, when you bought a ticket you also bought anticipated excitement of a great night out — and 'Scottish Opera' delivered the goods with the likes of their absolutely brilliant 'Barber of Seville' and more besides.

It started going wrong when I went to Edinburgh for their 'Magic Flute' in '99 and the 'Queen of the Night' bottled out of an attempt at the high notes, and the 'creatures of the forest' turned out to be dancing folk in abstract costumes and leotards — looked like dancing giant pieces of toast! Hardly a penny spent. Very, very sad indeed.

It really went wrong when I went to the 'Magic Flute' at Glasgow's 'Theatre Royal' last year. For a start, people were in our seats (and they had identical tickets to ours!), we suffered the first act in restricted view — and it began with a scene on the surface of the MOON! (Huh?), with ASTRONAUTS (eh?) and — wait for it — filthy puns about polishing helmets and more besides! It simply got worse and worse — even to the point where 'Sarastro' (in an office suit and with an attaché case) dressed up as a 'gimp' — like something from a sexual-deviant website, with shades of Quentin Tarantino!

So… what to expect of 'La Boheme'? We clenched our teeth, girded our loins, and stapped our vitals. Peeping through half-closed eyes we saw that this too was going to be 'different' from the outset; there was no firecurtain, and as people took their seats, the stage showed laptops and desktop computers projecting onto the back wall — two characters were already on stage (one playing with a 'Sony' 'Playstation').

However, somehow it all worked! 'La Bohème' was a triumph and a welcome return to the form of the early 1990s.

  • For the first time in many-a-long-year, the action was interrupted by a burst of spontaneous applause after 'Rodolfo's' first big aria… and he deserved it!

I would recommend anyone to go to see 'La Bohème'. Perhaps if 'Scottish Opera' saw the numbers returning, they would finally 'get it' — people want a good night out: entertainment! Fast paced colourful action, and great music, not crudeness, not avant-garde or modernity for it's own sake or for "art's sake". 'La Bohème' shows that Opera can easily compete and beat the 'West End Musical' and shake off the stuffy image of Opera. 'La Bohème' shows that 'Scottish Opera' can deliver to the masses while still being true to the work.

Let's hope it is such a success that lessons are learned!


1. The Scottish Rigoletto « devine - 2011/05/16

[…] of a gamble, when we remember “The Magic Flute” fiascos, but having said that,  “La Bohème” was pretty good — and “Tosca” was a good night out. Strange to think that […]

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