Joan Sutherland Theatre, Opera House January 2
Henri Murger’s stories of Bohemian life in 1840s Paris describe the volatile vulnerable vitality of youth, locked out of the prosperity of the French Second Republic with nothing to sell but their talent and beauty. This revival of Gale Edwards’ 2011 production of Puccini’s opera based on those stories itself thrives on promising young voices of natural beauty.
As Mimi, Korean soprano Karah Son sang with a rounded, well shaped sound – one might almost say well-groomed for its polish and care – but she showed herself amply capable of soaring emotive power in moments like the Act I love scene and her Act III reconciliation with Rodolfo. In that latter role Kang Wang displayed a voice of well-toned smoothness and youthful lustre that opened out at climactic moments with rich unstrained colour.
Initially, the chemistry between them wasn’t exactly incendiary – they were more like nice middle-class kids on a date than a poet and his muse. But in the last two acts the drama between them became engaged and intense and the final act was well paced and touching. Samuel Dundas, as the painter Marcello, was stalwart in the earlier acts, rising to nuanced and powerful expressive richness in the opening scene of the last act where he and Rodolfo reflect on their fleeting youth and loves.