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Giacomo Puccini: La Bohème [Norwegian National Opera] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080i/60
  • Audio Codec: PCM 2.0, DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Korean,Italian
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1  (1 x blu-ray)
  • Studio: Electric Picture
  • Blu-ray Release Date: October 30, 2012
  • List Price: $39.99

Overall
[Rating:3/5]
The Performance
[Rating:3/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Performance

[Rating:3/5]

As a perennially favorite operas, Puccini’s La Bohème has had many video incarnations including five previous BD releases. This 2012 Norwegian Opera performance is director Stefan Herheim’s first foray into this classic work, and, as might be expected from his previous efforts, he takes considerable liberties with the linear nature of the plot, opening the proceedings in a hospital room where Mimi (Martia Solberg) has died from cancer. The remainder of the opera is cast in retrospect as the love story between Rodolpho (Diego Torre) and Mimi rapidly develops, reaches its fever pitch, and then deteriorates. The other bohemians include Marcello (Vasilij Ladjuk), Colline (Giovannie Battista Parodi), Schaunard (Espen Langvik) and Musetta (Jennifer Rowley). Character singer/actor Svein Erik Sagbroten handles all of the comprimario roles (Benoit, Parpignol, Alcindoro, the Toll Gate Keeper, and Death) in a bit of economical casting.  Young conductor Eivind Gullberg Jensen leads the Norwegian National Opera Orchestra and Chorus.

For the record, I am not a great fan of regie-theater of which this Bohème is a prime example. The back and forth scene shifting between hospital and the standard settings will wear on a lot of nerves and make this conceptualization difficult for newcomers to follow. More’s the pity since the youthful cast presents a credible group of talented singers and the musical direction is well paced.

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]

Detail is quite decent and when the bluish cast is removed from the stage lighting, the colors are excellent. Camera work is challenging when stage crew has to continually make changes from the hospital to the set.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]


The DTS-HD Master Audio surround soundtrack is atmospheric and gives adequate presence to the voices on stage. Hall ambience is quite palpable adding to the sense of one’s being in the house. The LPCM two-channel version is quite decent, but not as spacious or well defined.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:2/5]

As this production represents quite a departure from the traditional Bohème, I did look forward to the interviews with cast, conductor and director. Much to my disappointment, these are all extremely brief backstage hail-fellow-well-met pieces, with director Herheim’s clocking in at just over two minutes! The usual cast gallery is also provided.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3/5]

As previously stated, the video field for La Bohème is already crowded in both standard definition and Blu-ray versions.  Having reviewed good BDs from the Royal Opera House, a traditional Parisian setting and Opera Australia, set in 1930’s Berlin, I found the present version to be down right perverse at times. Some viewers might appreciate the frequent cut backs to the hospital with continuing references to death and dying, underscored by the bald Death character (Svein Sagbroten) that weaves in and out of each act. Having the Parisian crowd intrude on the intimate garret scenes did not wear well with me either. I would have considered the liberties taken with the original Puccini concept more acceptable if only they had not been so heavy handed. Most operagoers will already know that Mimi is quite ill from the beginning and that she will succumb at the end without having it constantly shoved in their respective faces.  Like Herheim’s previous Netherlands Opera staging of Tchaikovksy’s Eugene Onegin that also tells the story from the end to the beginning, this conceit does not work wonders for La Bohème. Given the consistently fine level of singing and playing, particularly Jennifer Rowley’s outrageous Musetta, Marita Solberg’s sympathetic Mimi, and Diego Torre’s heartfelt Rodolpho, I wished that the cast had been better served by this production.

Additional Screen Captures

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Overall
[Rating:3/5]
The Performance
[Rating:3/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2/5]


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