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Takesha Meshé Kizart, Taryn Fiebig, Ji-Min Park, Jose Carbo
Gale Edwards’s provocative staging of La Bohème, set amid the glamour and decadence of 1930s Berlin, was a visual feast. Anyone in want of a souvenir will thus probably prefer the DVD incarnation of this performance, but Opera Australia has covered all its bases just the same, and released it on CD as well.
Recorded live in the acoustically frustrating Opera Theatre of the Sydney Opera House, this Bohème won’t delight audiophiles – the orchestra in particular sounds much more distant and tinny than it deserves – but the energy of live performance has been well captured, applause and all.
As Mimì, Takesha Meshé Kizart sings with opulent voice and tremulous emotion. Her delivery is at times too mannered and grandiose, but all in all she taps effectively into the character’s sweet, passionate nature. Ji-Min Park brings ardent, youthful energy to Rodolfo, but his slender voice tends to sound pressurised, especially in moments of high volume or tessitura.
The rest of the cast consists of familiar ensemble faces, with José Carbó’s Marcello as always a thing of vivid and idiomatic beauty. Taryn Fiebig is less convincing as the coquettish Musetta, however, and while Shane Lowrencev and David Parkin are solid enough as Schaunard and Colline, neither manages much vocal characterisation – perhaps the DVD would be more helpful here.
Perhaps most problematic, though, are Shao-Chia Lü’s often ponderous tempi: Rodolfo’s Che gelida manina, for instance, loses much of its conversational verve, and Musetta’s Waltz sounds closer to a dirge. While it’s great to see Opera Australia making commercial recordings again, this one doesn’t quite represent the national company at its best.