....For Kelly's birthday, (29 yesterday!), we went to see La Boheme at Soho Theatre.
I'll be honest, I'm not big on opera, but I am a sucker for a good review. This English speaking, contemporary version of the show by Robin Norton-Taylor, had been very well received before reaching Soho, so it seemed like the ideal opportunity to wean ourselves in to the genre. Puccini's four part classic has been translated in to three here, with the middle section relocated and played out before us in the downstairs bar.
We found it quite hard to grasp initially, simply tuning our ears to the voices of Rodolfo, Mimi and the cast, so we could make out the words. (Which we needed, being virgins to this story and opera on the whole). Yet the set was simple. A typical student flat, with no money in the electricity meter and solace found in a drink down the pub, or in a burgeoning relationship.
It was the middle act, performed in the bar, that was so compelling and convinced me of what a good, unique version this was. To be so up close to the performance, and then, suddenly, realise that 50% of the bar are cast extras playing along.
We were suddenly submerged, within La Boheme. We felt part of the scene ourselves, as though we were having some direct influence on how these young love relationships would transpire.
(Cock Tavern example, Kilburn, 2010)
The third and final part took us back to the traditional stage, as Mimi's death was played out, superbly and rather emotionally. I have written before about my love for music, but never thought it would transcend to opera. Certainly with this version of La Boheme, it has. At times the vocal arrangements even reminded me of Radiohead songs, bestowing power, then extraordinary elegance on the listener's ear. A thoroughly enjoyable show - perhaps not one for opera die-hards, as it is deliberately rough around the edges, (charmingly so), but to the uninitiated or curious, this is a belter.