Review: La bohème, Wales Millennium Centre

La bohème, Saturday 28th January, Wales Millennium Centre. Reviewer: Mel Lynch

Admittedly, before this week I had never properly visited the Millennium Centre nor attended a live Opera. However, upon experiencing both I am elated to say I was pleasantly surprised on all accounts. From my personal point of view, I was taken aback by how invested I had become in the love story of Mimi and Rodolfo, even by the time the curtains had risen for the interval.

La bohème is a classic Opera first performed in 1896, composed by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. Returning to the Millennium Centre after five years, Annabel Arden’s directing proved to once again spark rave reviews, with customers of leading ticket provider Skiddle already giving the production an impressive four out of five stars.

The narrative follows the lives of four poor but happy young Parisians. Their situation appears bleak as they struggle to make rent in harsh winter conditions, however the sensitive and insightful delivery from the cast warms the heart. The stand out performances had to be from actresses Marina Costa-Jackson (Mimi) and Lauren Fagan (Mussetta), in a predominantly male cast their striking voices stood out, with Mimi’s powerful final scene leaving the audience reaching for the tissues. Whilst I was skeptical about the rapid nature at which Mimi and Rodolfo fell in love, I truly could not resist being swept away with the free-flowing romance of it all.

Initially, I was apprehensive about the Italian dialect and the use of overhead subtitles thinking I would be a bit out of my comfort zone embarrassingly, which in fairness I did for about the first five minutes. However, the atmospheric projections and genuinely gorgeous singing from the performers quickly out shone any of my doubts. To my surprise there was even children in the cast who held their own, with their delivery of the choreography and singing in act two being one of the stand out moments of the whole Opera.

In society, Opera is often associated with stereotypes of ‘elitism’, where in order to access this type of culture one needs to be from a certain class and have had a particular upbringing to appreciate it fully. Sadly, this is a stereotype I naively subscribed to until recently. In fact, when telling fellow students of my plans to see La bohème their response when generally of confusion, questioning why I actively chose to see this type of production. Now I feel I can go back and confidently advocate this Opera whole heartedly. With the tickets ranging from £7 this type of culture is now more accessible to younger generations than ever and I genuinely feel everyone should experience an evening at the Opera at least once. Welsh National Opera also offer select tickets for £5 for under-30’s, which is also well worth a look. To quote The Guardian journalist Alexandra Wilson, ‘Repeating stereotypes doesn’t always help a cause. If we really want to share the joy of opera with as many people as possible, it’s time to start changing the conversation.’

by Mel Lynch.