- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080i/60
- Audio Codec: PCM 2.0 (48kHz/24-bit), dts-HD Master Audio (96kHz/24-bit)
- Language: Italian
- Subtitles: English, French, Italian, German, Spanish
- Region: A
- Rating: Not Rated
- Discs: 1
- Studio: Opus Arte
- Blu-ray Release Date: July 27, 2010
- List Price: $39.95
Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures
(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)
Giacomo Puccini’s La Boheme is one of the most beloved operas of all time. First time viewers will be won over by this story of young love, replete with gorgeous melodies, that moves quickly through the Latin Quarter of 19th century Paris. In Act I, set in a freezing garret, Rodolfo, a writer (Teodor Ilincai), meets Mimi, a seamstress (Hibla Gerzmava). The couple falls in love at first sight. In sharp contrast, Rodolfo’s friend, the painter Marcello (Gabriele Viviani) has an on-again, off-again relationship with his girl, Musetta (Inna Dukach). However, the course of true love does not run smoothly. After Act II’s rousing Christmas Eve scene in the Latin Quarter, Act III finds Rodolfo and Mimi planning their break up when winter ends. Act IV reunites the bohemians in their garret. Mimi returns, now gravely ill, and dies peacefully surrounded by her friends and lovers.
Most previous Boheme videos feature singers much older than their on-stage characters. This opera’s magic is diminished if close ups expose excessive wrinkles and make up. On the other hand, if the leads lack mature voices, Puccini’s musical intentions are undermined. Fortunately, this cast has both youthful faces as well as expert voices. They not only look like their parts but behave like the impetuous twenty-somethings that they are. You might not know any of these singers now (as I certainly didn’t) but stay tuned, there are some major careers in the making. This live Covent Garden performance is remarkably free of vocal and orchestral gaffes. It is nicely paced by its conductor, Andris Nelsons, also quite young, who clearly understands his fledgling cast.
Except for the final act, all of the action occurs at night or in the pre-dawn hours. Viewers should be prepared for a stage that is dark but not to the point of obscuring key details in the very traditional sets. John Copley’s 25 year-old designs have held up well and capture the opera’s spirit perfectly. The film’s director, Robin Lough, puts his considerable live opera experience to the production’s advantage. To his credit, the full stage panorama is consistently maintained with judicious but limited close ups during solos. My only quibble, and it is minor, is the miscalculation of having Musetta shoot a rack of billiards before her big aria. Her bright orange dress was sufficient to get my attention.
The sound track has the options of linear PCM 2.0 (48kHz/24-bit) or dts-HD Master Audio (96kHz/24-bit) for surround sound. This live performance at London’s Royal Opera House puts most of the sound up-front with a modest amount of rear hall ambience. The sonic perspective is that of a good (and expensive) mid orchestra seat. The voices are well recorded with proper warmth; no details are lost in the ensemble pieces. As a side note, the audience is amazingly quiet and applause restrained during the highlights, but after all, they’re British.
There are two very brief (3 to 4 minute) interviews with director John Copley and conductor Andris Nelsons which yield little extra perspective on this production. Given that most of the singers are not well known, I would have liked some time to get better acquainted with them and their varied backgrounds.
• Booklet: Contains cast and credit listings, a brief synopsis and detailed background of the opera in English, French, and German and a couple of cast pictures.
The Definitive Word
The Boheme BD catalog has three other entries. The English National Opera version can be dismissed out of hand since it is sung in English rather than Italian. The other two, a Teatro de Madrid production with superb videography and singing and a filmed version with the dazzling Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon offer strong competition. Given the pluses of a youthful photogenic cast, no weak artistic links, and superb staging and direction, this Boheme moves to the top of my list.