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The Review - MUSIC - Classical & Jazz with TONY KIELY
Published: 6 March 2008
Talent blossoms in Puccini’s garret

Royal Free Hospital

GARDEN Opera fielded a cast of talented young singing actors with fine voices for its production of Puccini’s evergreen favourite, La Boheme.
This company does a splendid job touring the many small venues up and down the country, giving people a chance to experience the joy of a professional opera ­performance on their doorstep.
Its well thought out small-scale productions with minimal sets offer opportunities for aspiring young professional singers to gain valuable performing experience. At the same time it ­provides a means of charitable fund-raising, as here at the Royal Free.
The singers put the story across with maximum impact. Particularly notable was the ringing Italianate tone of Chris Steele’s tenor as Rodolfo. The top of the voice still needs some work but its quality is outstanding and he has charisma and charm. His three fellow bohemians, Adrian Powter, Marcello, Adam Miller, Schaunard, and Freddie Tong as Colline, were well contrasted and performed and sang splendidly, vividly recreating the impecunious but carefree life in the garret.
Their anguish at the fate of Mimi was equally movingly portrayed. In that role Anne Bourne gave a most sympathetic portrayal, the voice not quite steady enough in the lower registers but blossoming in the arching high-lying phrases.
In the final death scene she was particularly moving and sang most beautifully.
Sally-Ann Shepherdson’s Musetta, as a Madonna look-alike, gave a superb performance as the classic “tart with the heart of gold”. Martin Nelson doubling as Benoit and Alcindoro, contributed strongly.
The orchestral part has been skilfully reduced for a chamber ensemble of six instruments plus piano.
However, with no pit, the trumpet had too prominent a role, often doubling the singers’ lines and sometimes nearly drowning them out in the difficult acoustic of the Peter Samuels Hall.
Direction of the singers in Act III, where the relationships are beginning to unravel, needed to be sharper, but by the death scene in Act IV momentum was regained – I think there was scarcely a dry eye in the hall at the end.

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