January 13, 2022 saw the second performance of Puccini’s “La Boheme” at the Metropolitan Opera. While Zeffirelli’s eternally fine production continues to delight, the evening’s cast, led by maestro Carlo Rizzi, managed to showcase their passion and vitality in front of the audience.
Fresh off his job with the Berlin Staatsoper, Charles Castronovo was in top form throughout the role of Rodolfo. Following the search for Mimi’s Key, Castronovo’s rendition of “Che gelida manina”, as he finally made physical contact with her, was a strong and well-supported delivery. Its fiery tones were full of expression in the high B flat on the line “chi son?” as he began to share his rich inner world with her. The resulting climatic note came with both ease and clarity, as Castronovo completed his journey back across the table to await his response. These qualities kept him in the fore during denser, more agitated moments: like the bustle and sound of Act Two and the emotionally charged Act Three, where his concern for Mimi’s health was ripe. with vocal grief as his initial stoic facade crumbled.
In the role of Mimi, Maria Agresta was incredibly endearing in both vocal and dramatic expression. After his tentative entrance and a momentary blackout on Rodolfo’s table, their search for his key was both playful and romance-laden, as it led to their respective tunes. Her rendition of “Si, mi chiamano Mimi” saw Agresta use excited trills as she described the flowers she made, before launching, with charming fervor, into her staged exultation of beauty. This made her deterioration in acts three and four all the more impactful, her delivery of “Donde lieta usci” both loving and anguished, with the mention of her bonnet coloring her resolve to part with memories of their love: it was all seen in his face and heard in his voice. Most poignant of all, naturally, was his death scene, which saw the return of earlier emotions and musical material such as the line “They call me Mimi but I don’t know why” and his breathless cover of Che gelida manina by Rodolfo. .”
Great supporting cast
As Musetta, Gabriella Reyes presented a wholesome, exuberant soprano that captivated from the moment she entered act two, using her voice to dominate the crowd in more conversational lines and employing it more lyrically for her seductive performance. from “Quando me’n vo”. Here, its lush, sustained sentences were crowned by its brief, sassy conclusion. Her exchanges and fights with Marcello were a source of levity and fun that continued throughout the revelry of act two and the conflict of act three. Her performance in act four, however, was a nice change. We watched Musetta de Reyes go from coquette to caretaker as she brings Mimi to Rodolfo and arranges for her medical treatment.
In the role of Marcello, Lucas Meachem skilfully embodies the faithful friend and painter in search of love. Matching his gestures to the beat of the drums just before his opening line, his rich baritone warmly set the mood for much of the first act and carried the gypsies’ exchange with Benoit with great comedic charm. He was a constant presence throughout most of Act Three as he supported Mimi and Rodolfo, and the conflict that led to the captivating quartet “Addio dolce svegliare alla mattina!” The painter’s changing moods were all handled with authenticity by Meachem, who possessed the richness of tone and expressive nuance to illuminate it to great effect.
The Bohemians were rounded out by Alexander Birch Elliott as Schaunard and Peter Kellner as Hill. From the moment he entered, Elliot’s time on stage saw him energetic and grand in both voice and body, qualities which made the story of his new found wealth all the more humorous, and well played in how he managed to convince his friends to spend the evening. on the city. Kellner added a heavy gravity with his bass, as the philosopher commented on unfolding events such as the steamy reunion between Marcello and Musetta. His Act Four aria “Vecchia zimarra felt” was a tender and provocative microcosm of thought about how precious objects and people come in and out of our lives, as Kellner brought the feelings of affection and appreciation to a conclusion. muffled, almost painful, supported by the tapered funeral song of the orchestra.
Maestro Rizzi continues to demonstrate deep experience and insight into Puccini’s works, often weaving a breathtaking and romantic musical atmosphere. This has been heard in earlier moments such as how the orchestra and performers coalesced for the passion of ‘O soave fanciulla’, and in simpler instances such as the soft, snowy opening of the act three. The splendid setting of Café Momus drew applause as soon as the curtain went up and it was nice to see a full chorus of performers arrayed on stage to portray the liveliness of the second act.
Thursday’s performance had a lot to offer between the cast of stellar artists and Zefirelli’s time-tested production that combines beauty with veristic sensibility. As long as it’s possible to attend performances safely amid the latest upsurge of COVID-19, audiences won’t want to miss this series of Puccini’s ever-moving masterpiece.